Firefighters Battle Blazes Around New Mexico

June 19, 2006

Albuquerque residents were allowed to return to their southwestern New Mexico homes briefly Saturday as fire crews continued to battle a wildfire that had forced an evacuation two days earlier.

Pinon, juniper and ponderosa pine trees are fueling the lightning-caused fire that has charred 8,535 acres since it was first reported June 2 in the Gila National Forest.

More than 200 homes in the Lake Roberts area were evacuated Thursday after wind gusts of about 40 mph pushed the blaze over a hand-cleared line. No homes have been damaged.

Authorities organized a convoy to allow residents back in for two hours Saturday to take care of anything they didn’t get to do before, said Shayna Carney, a fire information officer with the U.S. Forest Service.

Evacuees are being housed at San Lorenzo School in Mimbres.

South of Albuquerque, firefighters mopped up after a 150-acre blaze that temporarily shut down Interstate 25 and forced the evacuation of about 30 homes.

State Forestry Division spokesman Dan Ware said smoke and flames were still visible Saturday, but crews expected to have the fire fully contained by evening.

The fire was human-caused and is under investigation, Ware said.

Lightning sparked 23 wildfires in northeastern New Mexico this week, all burning in remote areas. All but four of those fires were contained Saturday and the rest were 80 percent contained.

Along the Utah-Arizona border, crews were mopping up a fire on the Navajo Mountain. The 3,350-acre blaze was 45 percent contained Saturday and posed no threat to homes, said fire information officer Jim Whittington.

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