Evacuations Ordered in New Mexico Mountains in Path of Fast Fire

Residents were being evacuated Wednesday in the Manzano Mountains because of a fast-moving fire being pushed by southwest winds.

The Ojo Peak Fire had burned one home, said Arlene Perea, a spokeswoman for the Cibola National Forest's Mountainair ranger district. The glow from the blaze could be seen for miles before daybreak in the Manzanos, south of Albuquerque.

The fire broke out early Monday, and remained at a few tens of acres until pushed by winds overnight. Then it grew quickly to an estimated 1,000 acres-plus by early Wednesday, Perea said.

There are no fire lines around any of the blaze, burning in rugged terrain at an elevation of 7,000 to 9,000 feet, she said.

About 55 Forest Service firefighters plus volunteer firefighters from various departments are fighting the blaze, with more firefighters and equipment moving in at daybreak.

Winds have been predominantly out of the southwest but have been erratic, Perea said.

"And with a crown fire, it will make some of its own winds," she said.

Fire officials said such a blaze is unusual this time of year.

The cause has not been determined, but Perea noted there has been no lightning in the area for a month.

People have been told to leave their homes along Game Road, Forest Road 131, Manzano, Manzano State Park, the community of Punta de Agua and Manzano, Kayser Mill Road and La Cienega, Perea said. She had no count on the number of people affected, but the area is rural.

Evacuees are being sent to Mountainair High School, where the Red Cross has opened a shelter.

Torrance County Manager Joy Ansley said people can bring livestock to the Mountainair rodeo grounds.

Other evacuations may be ordered, Perea said.

"Anybody along the east section of the mountains, be prepared just in case," she said. "Have important papers ready to go, pets, pictures, anything of any value to them, sentimental or otherwise. Be prepared."