New Mexico Wildfire May Rekindle

New Mexico Wildfire May Rekindle
Associated Press Writer

RUIDOSO, N.M. (AP) -- Fearing strong winds would rekindle a 440-acre wildfire, firefighters asked residents and tourists in several areas to evacuate their homes Sunday.

About 1,200 residents and tourists had evacuated Saturday from more than 500 homes, and residents of about 300 of the homes were asked to leave again voluntarily Sunday, fire information officer Jim Paxon said. Residents in other neighborhoods were put on alert.

''We can't order them out, but they're being asked to leave for their own safety,'' emergency operations director Tomas Chavez said.

No homes burned. One firefighter suffered a minor injury, officials said.

Glenda Rhoten, of Lubbock, Texas, had just started a weeklong vacation when she and her family were evacuated Saturday. ''We're just going to stay here until they tell us to leave, but we have everything packed,'' Rhoten said.

Gov. Gary Johnson, who authorized use of state resources to fight the fire, declared a state of emergency Sunday after touring the area to assess damage.

As many as 1,100 firefighters, National Guard troops and other personnel arrived to fight the fire or lend support on the Mescalero Apache reservation about two miles south of Ruidoso. Seven air tankers, bulldozers and 13 fire engines were also being used to fight the fire, officials said. A team worked to keep the fire from crossing into the nearby Lincoln National Forest.

''(The fire) is moving toward the city, but the rate of movement is very, very slow,'' Paxon said.

A ''red-flag'' wind warning remained in effect for the fire, but National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Ford said winds were not as strong as expected.

About 100 National Guard troops from Roswell were placed on emergency active duty to provide security, water and electric generators in the fire-besieged town.

Authorities said Saturday the wildfire had scorched about 700 acres, but that figure was revised to 440 acres after the area was more accurately mapped with a global positioning system, Chavez said. The cause of the fire is under investigation by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and tribal authorities.

On Friday, about 50 homes north of Ruidoso were evacuated because of a 200-acre wildfire. Ruidoso is about 100 miles northeast of El Paso.

A fire in the area last year burned 8,650 acres.

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