GLENWOOD, N.M. (AP) — Lighter winds aided crews battling a massive wildfire in southwestern New Mexico’s Gila National Forest, but they still were unable to stop the blaze that has raged across more than 190 square miles of mountainous forest lands since last week.
As the strong, erratic gusts slackened Sunday, teams focused on building protection lines on key flanks of the blaze.
The Whitewater-Baldy Complex fire grew to more than 122,000 acres and was about two miles away from the privately owned ghost town of Mogollon.
Denise Ottaviano, a spokeswoman for the crew fighting the blaze, said the fire hasn’t made a significant push toward the town. Crews were working to build a protection line between Mogollon and the fire’s western edge. Residents in the area were evacuated over the weekend.
The blaze, however, destroyed a dozen homes and several outbuildings on Wednesday in the community of Willow Creek, which remains under evacuation. Officials say crews were taking measures to protect homes in Willow Creek.
No other communities were threatened.
On Sunday, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez authorized the deployment of 15 National Guard soldiers to help secure areas around the fire.
Meanwhile, crews built protection lines on the fire’s western and northern edges. They also made preparations to send five helicopters to focus on the blaze’s hotspots, but it wasn’t clear if the aircraft were deployed Sunday. For the last several days, high winds had prevented them from taking to the air.
Zero percent of the fire has been contained.
Despite tamer winds, crews were still contending with extremely dry conditions and are expecting a decrease in humidity.
State officials had warned residents during the Memorial Day weekend to limit outdoor activities, especially if smoke was visible.
In western Colorado, gusty winds have spread two wildfires that have burned more than 7,000 acres and prompted the evacuation of several campgrounds.
Crews were battling a wildfire that has scorched at least 5,000 acres of rugged canyon land north of Paradox near the Colorado-Utah border.
Sheriff’s deputies on Saturday evacuated the Buckeye Reservoir area, a popular recreation spot near the Utah border. The Rock Creek and Sinbad Valley areas also were evacuated.
Meanwhile, winds of more than 60 mph fueled a 2,325-acre fire northwest of Pagosa Springs, and several campgrounds in the area have been evacuated.
Also Sunday, a large wildfire was reported east of Pueblo near Fowler, prompting the closure of U.S. 50. The exact size of the fire wasn’t immediately clear.
In California, ground crews with air support were surrounding a stubborn wildfire that has burned through 4,100 acres of grass and brush in rural San Diego County and had it 90 percent contained by evening.
CalFire spokeswoman Roxanne Provaznik says the blaze near Shelter Valley is burning away from the town of Julian in steep, rocky terrain. No structures were threatened.
Shelter Valley is in an unincorporated area of San Diego County, 12 miles east of Julian, within the boundaries of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
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