New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham officially requested a presidential disaster declaration on Tuesday to assist in fighting and recovering from the drought-fueled wildfires incinerating large swaths of the state. At least a dozen large, uncontained fires are burning across five states, incinerating a quarter-million acres so far. One fire has already burned about 170 homes and is threatening the historic town of Las Vegas, New Mexico, filling the air with soot as it incinerates mountainsides of ponderosa pine trees and meadows.

Climate change increases the frequency and severity of droughts, and thus the size, frequency, and intensity of wildfires. “My grandson has actually, um, been a little bit scared, nervous … The smoke was really bad yesterday,” Martina Gonzales, a Las Vegas resident told the AP. Despite his fear, the AP reports 4 year-old Lukas still yelled “airplane!” every time one flew by to dump water on the fire. (AP, Reuters, AP, Democracy Now; Climate Signals background: Wildfires, Western US megadrought)