The Gladiator Fire burns in the Bradshaw Mountains in Prescott National Forest, Ariz. on Wednesday, May 16, 2012. Authorities are worried that flames from the Gladiator Fire will get past a fire line that's about a mile west of the historic mining town of Crown King, fire incident spokeswoman Loretta Benavidez said Tuesday night. (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, David Wallace)
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - As smoke from a massive blaze in the
southwestern New Mexico wilderness spread across the state Friday,
health officials as far away as Albuquerque and Santa Fe warned
residents to limit outdoor activity over Memorial Day weekend due to growing air-quality concerns.
The privately owned ghost town of Mogollon was placed under a voluntary evacuation order as firefighters worked to tame the wildfire, which has grown to 70,000 acres or nearly 110 square miles.
Two lightning-sparked fires merged this week to form the giant Gila Wilderness blaze, which has destroyed 12 cabins and seven small outbuildings.
Strong winds pushed ash from the blaze 35 to 40 miles away, and
smoke from the giant fire spread across the state and into Arizona.
The haze blocked views of the Sandias in Albuquerque, and a smell
of smoke permeated the air throughout northern New Mexico.
Health officials from Albuquerque to Santa Fe issued alerts for the holiday weekend, advising people to limit outdoor activities, keep windows closed and avoid swamp coolers.
They said the effects on most people would be minor but noted mild throat and eye irritation or allergy-like symptoms could be expected. Officials warned people with heart and lung conditions to be especially diligent in minimizing their exposure to the smoky air.
Meanwhile, in California, firefighters worked to corral a wildfire that has chewed through 2,500 acres of tinder-dry grass and light brush and that temporarily forced the evacuation of 100 homes in San Diego County. That blaze broke out Thursday afternoon east of Julian and spread over hundreds of acres within a few hours.
It was 20 percent contained Friday, said Nick Schuler, battalion chief for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. No injuries or damage to structures were reported.
In Arizona, residents of the historic mining town of Crown King were allowed to return home after being evacuated because of a wildfire about 85 miles north of Phoenix. The fire started May 13 and has burned more than 16,000 acres. It is 35 percent contained, fire officials said.
The massive New Mexico blaze was being battled by more than 500
firefighters, but winds and erratic flames forced them to sit on the sidelines Thursday.
"We put into place a strategy to corral the slow-moving fire at ridge tops and natural rock cliffs soon after the Incident Commander John Pierson reported firefighters experiencing extremely hazardous conditions," Forest Supervisor Kelly Russell said. "The risk presented to firefighters outweighed the benefits of immediate and aggressive suppression given the fire is burning on slopes (upward) of 75 percent."