Published May 28, 2012
GLENWOOD, N.M. – Lighter winds aided crews at 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 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. 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 prepared to send five helicopters to focus on the blaze's hotspots. For the last several days, high winds had prevented them from taking to the air.
Despite tamer winds, crews were contending with extremely dry conditions and 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 also 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 have 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.