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Firefighters Battle N.M. Wildfire

April 5, 2002

RESERVE, N.M. (AP) _ A wildfire has charred 37,000 acres of national forest, consuming mostly grass and brush and burning past a cluster of cabins.

``It’s moving so quickly that the big timber is not being engulfed,″ said Loretta Ray, a spokeswoman for the Gila National Forest in southwest New Mexico.

``It’s consuming the ground fuels and ground litter but fortunately, we have just not seen that torching affect occur or the crowning (flames leaping from treetop to treetop),″ she said Friday.

The fire was caused by lightning and spotted Sunday. It remained small until Wednesday, when it roared out of control and scorched 10,000 acres by that night.

Residents of 18 to 20 homes and cabins in the Elk Springs subdivision voluntarily evacuated Wednesday. The area appeared to have been spared, but the flames threatened the homes again Thursday. By Friday morning, the fire passed by the homes without doing damage.

Firefighters continued to work on containment of the fire Friday.

Some roads in the 500,000-acre national forest were closed as air tankers dropped fire-retardant slurry on the fast-moving flames.

Last week, a fire roared through a subdivision in the Sacramento Mountains in New Mexico, forcing the evacuation of 1,300 people and destroying 28 homes. No one was injured.

With conditions dry and snowpack light, New Mexico’s fire season has come several weeks early. In 2000, the state reported 2,466 fires covering 519,177 acres. Last year, 1,649 fires burned 38,890 acres. From Jan. 1 through March 20 this year, 61 fires burned 2,279 acres.


On the Net:

National Interagency Fire Center: http://www.nifc.gov

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