Three wildfires have scorched tens of thousands of acres and forced thousands to flee their homes as they burn unchecked near Los Angeles and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

By Sunday night, the Powerhouse Fire around the Angeles National Forest in Southern California engulfed about 22,400 acres, endangering some 1,000 homes in the Lake Elizabeth and Lake Hughes area.

Nearly 2,100 firefighters struggled to contain the fire, which more than tripled in size from Saturday to Sunday. Nearly 3,000 people have been evacuated and the blaze has already destroyed at least six homes by Sunday night.

At the same, the Tres Lagunas Fire in the Pecos wilderness in the Sanata Fe National forest near Santa Fe, New Mexico, has consumed roughly 7,000 acres and forced residents of 150 homes – as well as several campgrounds – to flee the area. Another 1,200 acres was set ablaze by the Thompson Ridge Fire in the nearby Valles Caldera National Preserve.

 
Inferno: The Powerhouse wildfire at the Angeles National Forest engulfs as home on Saturday night. At least five houses have been destroyed by the massive blaze

Inferno: The Powerhouse wildfire at the Angeles National Forest engulfs as home on Saturday night. At least five houses have been destroyed by the massive blaze

 

 
Working in vain: Nearly 1,000 firefighters struggled the bring the massive Powerhouse wildfire under control. By Sunday night, just 20percent of it had been contained

Working in vain: Nearly 1,000 firefighters struggled the bring the massive Powerhouse wildfire under control. By Sunday morning, just 20percent of it had been contained.

The western wildfires are hundreds of mile apart, but spread for all the same reasons. Record heat and low humidity turns ground brush into a tinderbox – ready for ignition.

It is unclear what caused the Powerhouse and Thompson Ridge fires, though the Tres Lobos blaze in Pecos Canyon appears to have been sparked by a downed power line, the Santa Fe New Mexican reports.

The dry ground cover and strong, erratic winds whipped the wildfires into furious infernos.

The Powerhouse Fire, which started four days ago, spread rapidly on early Sunday as firefighters tried in vain to bring it until control. As the sun set on Saturday, the fire had burned about 5,500 acres. It was only 3,600 acres Saturday afternoon.

But sunrise, it had spread to 19,500 acres – more than 30 square miles.

Daytime temperatures topped 105 degrees – making it difficult for fire crews to work to isolate the blaze.

Residents in Lake Hughes and Lake Elizabeth were forced to pack what they could and flee the fire late Saturday.

‘It’s going to be very hot and dry with not a whole lot of wind,’ National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Sukup told the Los Angeles Times.

Patty Robitaille, 61, recalls throwing together family pictures and documents and hastily loading them, and her dog into her car. The fire, she said, kept coming closer and closer before she fled.

‘Driving away, you could see the town burning up. I don’t think there’s going to be much left,’ she told the Times.

Firefighters risked their lives in an attempt to drive back the flames. Several people had to be rescued from their houses as the inferno crept closer to civilization.

At one point on Saturday night, a fire station was entirely surrounded by the forest fire and crews were forced to fire their way out of danger.

By Sunday morning, firefighters had gained a foothold on the fire and brought 20 per cent of it under control.

Firefighters from the U.S. Forest Service and Los Angeles County said it would be at least two more days before the blaze could be entirely contained.

 
Firefighters said they had 20percent of the Powerhouse fire contained by Sunday morning

Firefighters said they had 20percent of the Powerhouse fire contained by Sunday morning

 

 
No way out: A wooden bridge erupted in flames near Lakes Hughes, California, as five homes were burned to the ground

No way out: A wooden bridge erupted in flames near Lakes Hughes, California, as five homes were burned to the ground.

Meanwhile in New Mexico, officials said an uncontained blaze near in Pecos Canyon in Santa Fe had spread to 7,000 acres by Sunday night. Crews had gained a 5 per cent foothold on the fire, though they lost even that on Saturday evening, as the blaze blew out of control. The thick smoke covered the Gallinas Canyon, Pecos and Las Vegas, New Mexico. 

New Mexico fire crews got some respite on Saturday, as winds died down – allowing crews to begin using helicopters and tanker airplanes to drop water and fire retardant on the blaze. 

Officials have evacuated about 134 summer homes, 10 campgrounds and six trailheads surrounding the fire. The area is sparsely populated and no houses had been destroyed as of Saturday night.

The state Department of Health warned residents in the Pecos, Santa Fe and Espanola areas to prepare for smoke and take precautions by avoiding prolonged or physical activity outdoors.

‘Potentially unhealthy conditions could occur in these communities overnight and into the early morning,’ a statement released by health officials said.

Another New Mexico blaze, the Thompson Ridge fire near Jemez Springs, had grown to about one square mile, state forestry officials said.

Between 40 and 50 homes in the area were evacuated as around 80 crew members and a helicopter arrived to help fight the blaze.

 
Fleeing: Residents sped away from the Powerhouse blaze as it crept every-closer to civilization. At one point, a local fire station was entirely surrounded by flames

Fleeing: Residents sped away from the Powerhouse blaze as it crept every-closer to civilization. At one point, a local fire station was entirely surrounded by flames.

The Thompson Ridge Fire could also be seen from miles and miles away

 

 
Fighting back: A DC-10 a aerial tanker drops fire retardant in the Angeles National Forest in an attempt to slow the spread of the 20,000-acre blaze

Fighting back: A DC-10 a aerial tanker drops fire retardant in the Angeles National Forest in an attempt to slow the spread of the 20,000-acre blaze

 

 
Dousing the blaze: A helicopter sucks water from Lake Hues that it will then spray on the blaze that threatens 1,000 homes

Dousing the blaze: A helicopter sucks water from Lake Hues that it will then spray on the blaze that threatens 1,000 homes

 

 
Nothing left: Little more than ash and rubble remain after fire engulfed this home in Lake Hughes

Nothing left: Little more than ash and rubble remain after fire engulfed this home in Lake Hughes

 

 
The house was burned down to its foundation, one of at least five victims of the wildfire

The house was burned down to its foundation, one of at least five victims of the wildfire

 

 
Firefighters mopped up hot spots after the area surrounding Lake Hughes burned on Saturday night

Firefighters mopped up hot spots after the area surrounding Lake Hughes burned on Saturday night

 

 
Tinderbox: The dry brush in the Angeles National Forest has made for dangerous fuel for the Powerhouse Fire

Tinderbox: The dry brush in the Angeles National Forest has made for dangerous fuel for the Powerhouse Fire.

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