By RUSSELL CONTRERAS, Associated Press
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A wildfire in Gila National Forest burned through more timber and brush lands as it forced the evacuation of residents living near a privately owned ghost town in southwestern New Mexico, officials said.
Fueled by strong, erratic winds, the Whitewater-Baldy Complex fire burning through rugged and remote terrain grew Saturday to an estimated 100,000 acres, or more than 150 square miles. It was still 0 percent contained.
The evacuation of Mogollon, a privately owned ghost town, was ordered Saturday due to extreme wind.
Five helicopters and more than 600 firefighters from around the state were on hand to fight the blaze but still had to contend with "extreme conditions."
Cities, as far away as Albuquerque, remained under a health alert until Sunday afternoon due to smoke from the fire, which has spread across the state. State officials were warning residents during the Memorial Day weekend to limit outdoor activities, especially if smoke was visible.
The haze that blocked views of the Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque on Friday appeared to have decreased by early Saturday afternoon, but smoke continued to hang over parts of the city.
Meanwhile on Saturday, crews in Colorado battled a wildfire that has scorched more than 3,000 acres of rugged canyon land near the Colorado-Utah border. U.S. Forest Service spokesman Steve Segin said the fire started Friday afternoon and is burning in a remote area near Paradox. It is not threatening any structures, and no injuries have been reported.
Shannon Borders, a spokeswoman for The Bureau of Land Management, said sheriff's deputies have evacuated the Buckeye Reservoir area, a popular recreation spot near the Utah border. The Rock Creek and Sinbad Valley areas also were evacuated.
In California, higher humidity and light winds were helping firefighters get ahead of a stubborn wildfire that has charred 4,100 acres of tinder-dry grass and brush in rural San Diego County.
The blaze near Shelter Valley was burning Saturday in steep, rocky terrain away from the town of Julian, said Thomas Shoots, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. It was 65 percent contained.
No injuries or damage to structures were reported, and the fire was not moving toward any homes as it burned southeast on Saturday.
Arizona fire officials said a cold front arriving over the state late Friday was providing additional relief to firefighters battling the Gladiator Fire, a blaze that has charred 16,000 acres and is now 40 percent contained. Electricity has been restored to some areas.
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