Crews battle fires in N.M., near Utah border
May 26, 2012
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Residents near a privately owned New Mexico ghost town were ordered Saturday to evacuate as a blaze in the Gila National Forest continued to burn erratically, as Colorado crews took to fighting a new fire along the Utah-Colorado border.
Fire officials in New Mexico said Saturday that the Whitewater-Baldy Complex fire has shrunk slightly to 82,000 acres but is still 0 percent contained because of weather conditions. The evacuation of Mogollon, a privately owned ghost town, was ordered due to extreme wind around the southwestern New Mexico fire. Four helicopters and more than 500 firefighters from around the state were on hand to fight the blaze but still had to contend with “extreme conditions.”
Cities, as far away as Albuquerque, remained under a health alert until Sunday afternoon due to smoke from the fire, which has spread across the state. State officials were warning residents during the Memorial Day weekend to limit outdoor activities, especially if smoke was visible.
The haze that blocked views of the Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque on Friday appeared to have decreased by early Saturday afternoon, but smoke continued to hang over parts of the city.
Meanwhile on Saturday, crews in Colorado battled a wildfire that has scorched more than 3,000 acres of rugged canyon land near the Colorado-Utah border. U.S. Forest Service spokesman Steve Segin said the fire started Friday afternoon and is burning in a remote area near Paradox. It is not threatening any structures, and no injuries have been reported.
Shannon Borders, a spokeswoman for The Bureau of Land Management, said sheriff’s deputies have evacuated the Buckeye Reservoir area, a popular recreation spot near the Utah border. The Rock Creek and Sinbad Valley areas also were evacuated.
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In California, higher humidity and light winds were helping firefighters get ahead of a stubborn wildfire that has charred 4,100 acres of tinder-dry grass and brush in rural San Diego County.
The blaze near Shelter Valley was burning Saturday in steep, rocky terrain away from the town of Julian, said Thomas Shoots, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. It was 30 percent contained.
No injuries or damage to structures were reported, and the fire was not moving toward any homes as it burned southeast on Saturday.
Authorities evacuated about 100 homes in the Shelter Valley area along Highway 78 in the early stages of the blaze, but evacuation orders were lifted late Thursday and residents were allowed to return, Schuler said.
Arizona fire officials said a cold front arriving over the state late Friday was providing additional relief to firefighters battling the Gladiator Fire, a blaze that has charred 16,000 acres and is now 40 percent contained. Electricity has been restored to some areas.