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Wildfires rage in Alaska, NM

BY PJ HELLER | ANCHORAGE, Alaska | May 29, 2002

Wildfires, fanned by high winds and low humidity, continued to rage throughout Alaska and New Mexico today. In Arizona, more favorable weather conditions aided firefighters in battling a major blaze there.

In Alaska, firefighters were battling 11 blazes and monitoring some 31 others, according to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center. Nearly 300,000 have been burned so far this year, it reported.

The most serious fire was near Chena Hot Springs, about 50 miles from Fairbanks. The blaze, which has grown to 19,200 acres, has destroyed four cabins. More than 300 firefighters were battling to keep the flames away from the Angel Creek Lodge and the Chena Hot Springs Resort, both popular tourist destinations.

The largest blaze in the state about seven miles from Livengood, which had charred some 83,000 acres. Both it and the Chena Hot Springs fire were only 5 percent contained.

Another fire 15 miles south of McGrath, a community about 220 miles northwest of Anchorage, has grown to 49,600 acres, officials said. Firefighters were working to protect both the town and cabins in the area.

In Arizona, more favorable weather conditions were helping firefighters in the battle against the 19,300-acre Bullock Fire in the Coronado National Forest. The fire, about 15 miles northeast of Tucson, was 45 percent contained. It started May 21.

The fire forced the evacuation of the Mount Lemmon area. Some 700 homes and 15 businesses remain threatened by the blaze. The fire was also burning at the base of Mount Bigelow, where millions of dollars of communications equipment, including six television towers, were located. The area also houses two telescopes from the University of Arizona.

Some 913 personnel were fighting the fire both on the ground and from the air.

The Borrego Fire in the Santa Fe National Forest in New Mexico, meantime, burned more actively, fueled by the lifting of an inversion, lower relative humidity and higher winds.

The fire, which has burned nearly 13,000 acres since it began May 22, was about 60 percent contained. No homes or buildings have been damaged and the threat to the town of Truchas, which had been evacuated earlier, has lessened, authorities said. The fire was about 15 miles east of Santa Cruz, and two miles east of Cordova.

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