2,000 firefighters continue to fight NM wildfires

3:39 PM, Jun 8, 2013   |    comments
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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - More than 2,000 firefighters pressed forward Saturday in battling two large northern New Mexico wildfires as smaller blazes popped up throughout the drought-stricken state stretching resources and sparking more warnings.

Officials said both the 29-square-miles Thompson Ridge Fire and the 15-square-mile Tres Lagunas Blaze remained 40 percent contained. The infernos were burning on opposite ends of the Santa Fe National Forest in northern New Mexico sending smoke to nearby communities, including Santa Fe.

Smoke from the wind Thompson Ridge Fire is expected to bring smoke as far south as Albuquerque late Saturday and early Sunday thank to winds between the Valles Caldera National Preserve and Albuquerque , city environmental officials said.

An evacuation order remains in effect for Thompson Ridge, Rancho de la Cueva and Elk Valley.

Meanwhile, several small fires were reportedly burning in the Gila National Forest - the site of state's largest wildfire in its history last year. The new fires were blamed on multiple lightning strikes from thunderstorms that passed through the forest Friday. No structures so far are threatened, according to forest officials.

Officials said due to the fires in the Gila, residents in Silver City, Bayard, Hurley, Glenwood, Reserve, and Quemado may see or smell smoke.

Tiny wildfires were also reported southwest of Cook's Peak near Angel Fire and near Mt. Taylor outside of Grants.

The blazes come as much of New Mexico remains under extreme drought.

And the wildfires were threatened more just property and wildlife.

Outside Jemez Pueblo, near the Thompson Ridge Fire, residents there worried how the blaze would affect hundreds of sacred sites throughout the mountain range. Paul Tosa, a former Jemez Pueblo, told KOB-TV that elders especially are worried "the Eagle" - a huge combination of rock formations and forest patterns that the Jemez people can see on the southern slopes of the mountain the Jemez Pueblo call Wavema.

"It is our burial grounds, it is our churches," Tosa said. "The ancestral people are buried there, and yet at the same time, because of those people, we are still existing. We are still surviving."

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