NEW MEXICO (KRQE) –  The Hermit’s Peak Calf Canyon fire continues to grow. It’s burned more than 168,000 acres and is only 20% contained, making it the biggest in the United States right now. Fire crews may be in for a huge fight next week as a major wind storm is coming and it could last for days.

Randall Hergert is a Meteorologist at Albuquerque National Weather Service. He explains, “We could see gusts over Sangre de Cristo Mountains reaching 50 to 70 MPH. It’s just not looking good for those…especially the Calf Canyon and Hermit’s Peak fires.”

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But fire crews are well aware of the challenge that is coming their way. Mike De Fries, fire information officer, says, “A lot of the work that we’re doing is removing fuels in places we know that in the days ahead we have some very very extreme windy conditions on the way.”

According to the National Weather Service the winds coming this weekend could last much longer than usual. “You know in New Mexico we have winds right? It’s a windy state but when you combine that with the historic drought that’s been going on for years now, it’s just giving ample opportunity for the fuels to cure.” 

This year the forests in the Jemez and near Las Vegas have only seen about 2/3s of normal rain and snow. “Usually we can have enough…good enough snowpack coming into this time of year to kind of delay this we have a little but that’s just not happening this year,” said Hergert. 

In fact the snowpack in the Hermit’s Peak Calf Canyon area is less than 20% of normal for this time of year. All this adding up to make some of the driest forest conditions on record. “This year we’re seeing these fires already surpass the acreage we’ve seen in prior years,” Hergert continues.   

The National Weather Service has already issued a red flag warning for tomorrow and a fire weather watch for Sunday.