After awhile if that fire just rips through you pull out your crews and hope nobody gets hurt.
A lightning-caused fire in south-central New Mexico had grown to 23,000 acres by Wednesday morning and the wind-whipped blaze was proving hazardous for fire fighters, according to Gwen Shaffer, fire information officer.
Two dozen homes - only seven of them occupied - had been evacuated, confirmed Shaffer. The nearest more populated area is Arabela, said Shaffer, and "we're keeping an eye on it. Engines are standing by to make sure the fire doesn't go into that area."
Arabela is about 30 miles from the edge of the blaze.
The gusting wind, rugged terrain and tinder-dry trees were combining to make this fire very challenging to contain, Shaffer added. "After awhile if that fire just rips through you pull out your crews and hope nobody gets hurt. This is one of the most dangerous types of fire."
Bark beetles have caused extensive damage to trees in the area, and the dry, dead trees are a fuel load for the blaze, which is six miles north of Capitan. Gov. Bill Richardson has declared a state of emergency in Lincoln County.
The fire started May 15. Fires caused by lightning strikes in remote areas are often difficult to spot at an early stage when they can be contained. "We won't see it for days, then all of a sudden it's an inferno. The terrain here makes it really tough."
Firefighters have bulldozed lines around homes in the area.
"People keep saying, 'couldn't you have stopped it?' All of a sudden it just really kicked our butt," said Shaffer.
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