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Dangerous fire weather was expected to develop Friday, worsening conditions for firefighters across the U.S.
Fox Weather reported that an extreme fire weather risk exists in the central and southern High Plains, including Colorado and Kansas.
An elevated fire weather risk also exists in the Northeast, where gusty winds and low humidity could fuel any fires in wooded areas.
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While crews had made progress on Nebraska’s deadly Road 702 Fire – which has been burning since last week – officials were wary of lightning and shifting winds of speeds up to 50 mph from oncoming thunderstorms.
That blaze, which has scorched 43,582 acres, is now 88% contained, according to the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency.
On Thursday, crews were focused on two areas of uncontrolled burning just south of US Highway 6 along the Republican River.
Red flag warnings for extreme fire danger were in place Thursday for Nebraska, all of New Mexico and parts of Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma.
Bad firefighting weather has generated unusually hot and fast-moving fires for this time of year.
The U.S. Forest Service said firefighters are working to contain the Barnett Branch Fire in North Carolina, which was first reported on Wednesday, and a new fire in New Mexico started at the Alamo Navajo Indian Reservation on Thursday.
At least 166 homes have been destroyed in northeastern New Mexico where the biggest fire currently burning in the U.S. and winds gusting up to 50 mph were also expected in the drought-stricken region.
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According to the U.S. National Forest Service for the Santa Fe National Forecast, the Calf Canyon and Hermits Peak Fires are now 37% contained, stretching 65,824 acres.
The agency noted a wind-driven run on the north edge of the fire challenged firefighters both on the ground and in the air on Thursday.
Approximately 3,000 firefighters were battling fires in Arizona and New Mexico.
The fire is now 89% contained, spanning 19,075 acres.
That fire – one of several in Arizona – has impacted more than 100 properties and burned 30 residences.
The National Interagency Fire Center said Friday that 13 large fires have burned 236,407 acres.
More than a million acres have burned nationwide since January 1.
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The threat of increased fire danger weather across the country is expected to continue into the summer, according to a recent outlook issued by the NIFC.
Wildfire has become a year-round threat in the West. Scientists have said that problems have been exacerbated by decades of fire suppression and poor management along with a more than 20-year megadrought that studies link to human-caused climate change.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.