Wildfires prompt evacuations in 2 NM communities

AP News
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Posted: May 09, 2011 7:06 PM
Wildfires prompt evacuations in 2 NM communities

Dry conditions and wind were helping fan wildfires around New Mexico as one blaze burned two buildings and prompted evacuations in the village of Mayhill while another in the rugged Gila Wilderness caused officials to urge residents of about 35 homes to leave the area, authorities said Monday.

The fire near Mayhill started in the nearby Sacramento Mountains along a highway, Lincoln National Forest spokesman Joe Garcia said. No other central New Mexico communities were threatened and authorities were hoping winds would continue to blow in a direction that would keep the blaze away from the town.

Officials couldn't say how many people were being asked to leave or what type of buildings burned. A shelter for evacuees was opened at a high school west of the town.

The fire in the Gila Wilderness, in the southwestern part of the state, caused the closure of the Gila Cliff Dwellings Visitors Center, several campgrounds and a state highway.

Two other grass fires broke out Monday in southeastern New Mexico, and officials briefly evacuated a Baptist church and school on the west side of Roswell as a result of one of the fires. It wasn't immediately known what started that fire or how many acres it had burned.

The second fire, farther southeast near the small community of Maljamar, burned 1,000 acres as winds drove it northward. Officials closed U.S. 82 east of Maljamar when the blaze jumped the highway.

Also, a fire that broke out Monday in Torrance County east of Albuquerque had burned an estimated 500 acres but wasn't threatening any structures, and a lightning-sparked fire that was spotted Friday 15 miles northwest of Hope in southern New Mexico had grown to 28 square miles by Monday and was 70 percent contained.