N.M. Wildfires Burn Four Homes

Another small community was evacuated Tuesday as a wildfire charred about 3,000 acres in the ponderosa and pinon pine forest of northern New Mexico's Jemez Mountains.

Smoke from the fire could be seen at least 50 miles away in Albuquerque, and the blaze destroyed four summer homes.

Officials said crews had contained about 15 percent of the blaze by Tuesday after burning off fuel north of Fenton Lake State Park and working fire lines by hand during the night.

Crews braced for the fire to flare up as the day warmed, but it did not behave as erratically as it had Monday. The blaze was moving through less rugged terrain, and crews were also helped by cooler temperatures.

"The fire was much less active," fire information officer Ignacio Peralta said.

Officials evacuated La Cueva, a community of about 200 homes a few miles east of Fenton Lake.

"From what I can gather, I still have a house," said resident Barbara Medlin, who registered at an evacuation shelter Tuesday afternoon. "I just don't know if they'll let me into it."

Residents of Seven Springs and Thompson Ridge were evacuated Monday, a few hours after the fire was spotted. Forest officials said the two communities have about 150 homes, many of them summer cabins.

Los Alamos National Laboratory evacuated its Fenton Hill astronomy facility east of Fenton Lake. About 10 people work there, a lab spokesman said. The fire was about 50 miles west of Los Alamos, where a 43,000-acre wildfire destroyed more than 200 homes two years ago.

Elsewhere, a 100-acre fire in southern California destroyed two homes and five other buildings Tuesday. Because of the blaze near Julian in eastern San Diego County, about 100 people voluntarily left the unincorporated communities of Kentwood in the Pines and Whispering Pines, said Audrey Hagen, a state forestry department fire information officer.

It was one of five fires, all within a mile of each other, and "we suspect it's arson," said Lt. Guy Chambers of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.

Occupants of about 40 houses and cabins and several ranches in central Wyoming's scenic Red Canyon had been allowed to return home but were told they could be evacuated again at a moment's notice because of a fire that had grown to 11,900 acres. The fire, about 15 miles south of Lander, was 25 percent contained Tuesday.

In Arizona, residents of four small developments north of Payson, had been told to be ready in case of an evacuation order, said fire spokesman Jim Payne. A 1,210-acre fire was northwest of the communities, but it was moving mostly toward the north-northeast, Payne said.

The nation's biggest wildfire this year, the Biscuit blaze on southwestern Oregon, passed the 500,000-acre mark Tuesday as firefighters closed in on containment and some crews were sent to other fires. Only 10 miles of fire line remained to be strengthened, said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Jean Schaeppi.