New Mexico wildfire grows to 70,000 acres

Costs of fighting the fire so far are estimated at $11 million

May 25, 2012

A massive wildfire in New Mexico had burned 70,000 acres and destroyed 12 homes, fire officials said. Crews also battled fires in Arizona and California.

The New Mexico homes, along with seven outbuildings, were in the Willow Creek subdivision in the southwestern part of the state. A voluntary evacuation order was issued for the town of Mogollon.

More than 400 firefighters were tackling the Whitewater-Baldy Complex fire but their efforts were hampered by high winds, KOAT-TV, Albuquerque, reported.

Fire officials said caution was advised for the entire Gila Wilderness due to recent lightning and fire activity.

In Arizona, fire crews were gaining ground against the Gladiator fire that had burned more than 6,000 acres in the Prescott National Forest, officials said Friday.

The fire was 30 percent contained Thursday night, despite hot, dry weather and gusty winds.

Firefighters strengthened containment and contingency lines where needed. The Arizona Republic said air tankers that had been helping fight the blaze were diverted to other areas.

An evacuation order remained in effect for the community of Crown King and the Battle Flat, Pine Flat and Turkey Creek areas. All roads leading into Crown King remained closed.

Wind gusts of up to 50 mph were reported Thursday and even higher gusts were possible Friday.

Costs of fighting the fire so far were estimated at $11 million. The flames knocked out 17 power lines and destroyed six structures.

Four other wildfires were reported in Arizona this week, including the Sunflower fire, which had burned 16,175 acres in the Tonto National Forest. It was 43 percent contained Thursday.

In California, firefighters were battling a wildfire that had spread to 2,500 acres east of Julian near San Diego, authorities said.

About 100 residents who had been evacuated returned to their homes Friday morning, the Ramona Sentinel reported.

The Banner fire had prompted the evacuations and the closing of several highways, Cal Fire said.

The fire was 20 percent contained by early Friday, Cal Fire Battalion Chief Nick Schuler said.

"There's been a lot of work done overnight," he said. "The winds have increased a little bit but we're making good progress."

About 500 firefighters were battling the fire, authorities said.

2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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