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Biggest wildfire ever in New Mexico grows

Whitewater-Baldy fire has spread to more than 170,200 acres, zero percent contained

ALBUQUERQUE | May 31, 2012

The Whitewater-Baldy fire, the largest in New Mexico history, has spread to more than 170,200 acres and was zero percent contained, authorities said.

Officials said the fire, which was caused by lightning, has cost $6 million to fight thus far, the Silver City (N.M.) Sun-News reported.

As of Wednesday, 1,236 personnel were fighting the blaze, which has grown by more than 100,000 acres in a week. Five firefighters have been treated for injuries this week; none was hospitalized.

Much of the fire's growth by Tuesday had been attributed to dryness and low humidity, said Gerry Perry, an information officer assigned to the firefighting teams.

Winds gained speed Wednesday, blowing 14-24 mph with sustained gusts of 24 mph, contributing to the fire's growth, especially on the east side.

Perry said the fire has burned vegetation in drainage areas, which could lead to flooding during monsoon season in July.

The drainage areas funnel water from streams and rain into the Gila River and when the vegetation is destroyed, the soil is destabilized, which can cause flooding, Perry said.

Perry said no evacuation is anticipated.

2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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