Fast Moving New Mexico Blaze Causes Evacuations

Firefighters work on extinguishing a fire in the Los Padres National Forrest near Santa Barbara, Calif. on Tuesday, May 28, 2013. Firefighters took advantage of a lull in winds on Tuesday to try to gain ground against a forest fire in mountains north of Santa Barbara, as crews elsewhere in Southern California chased a new fire north of Los Angeles and sought to increase containment of a rural San Diego County blaze. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
Firefighters work on extinguishing a fire in the Los Padres National Forrest near Santa Barbara, Calif. on Tuesday, May 28, 2013. Firefighters took advantage of a lull in winds on Tuesday to try to gain ground against a forest fire in mountains north of Santa Barbara, as crews elsewhere in Southern California chased a new fire north of Los Angeles and sought to increase containment of a rural San Diego County blaze. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

PECOS, N.M. (AP) – As firefighters gained ground Friday on a wildfire in the mountains north of Los Angeles, another blaze flared up in the West. A fast-moving blaze in New Mexico’s Santa Fe National Forest prompted evacuations of residences and campgrounds, threatened upscale cabins and vacation homes, and closed a highway.

Officials asked residents in 150 homes – mostly used for the summer – to evacuate as crews battled the 1,000-acre blaze near the communities of Pecos and Tres Lagunas, about 25 miles west of Santa Fe.

New Mexico State Forestry spokesman Dan Ware said the evacuations came after the fire jumped N.M. Highway 63. Officials believe a downed power line ignited the blaze on private land Thursday. “Fire activity is picking up this morning and because of expected high winds, low humidity and increasing temperatures, the spread potential is high,” Ware said.

New Mexico is in its driest two-year period in nearly 120 years of record-keeping.

It’s not clear how many people were evacuated from the summer homes.

Meanwhile, crews battling the fire north of Los Angeles took advantage of cool morning weather Friday to make progress but scattered flames continued to climb hillsides.

The 1,400-acre wildfire was 15 percent contained and as many as 500 firefighters hoped to make further progress before the day turned hot and dry, U.S. Forest Service spokesman Nathan Judy said.

A flare-up prompted authorities to briefly evacuate about 25 homes along a canyon road in the Angeles National Forest in the morning, but residents were later allowed to return.

“Right now the fire’s not doing a whole lot. It’s just making small runs here and there,” Judy said. “There’s no large fire front.”

He said the blaze is burning near power lines, although utilities report no damage.

In New Mexico, two helicopters and one air tanker were helping fight the wildfire in an area scattered with cabins, vacation homes and recreational ranches and camps. About 200 personnel were at the scene or mobilizing to fight the blaze, Ware said.

No injuries have been reported.

Among those evacuated were a group of seventh-graders staying at the Panchuela Campground.

Some homeowners in the Pecos Canyon area couldn’t reach their houses Thursday because emergency crews had closed off N.M. 63. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported many cars turned around, while others parked alongside on the shoulder with the hope that the road would reopen.

Tracy Bennett, manager of Hidden Valley Ranch, said he evacuated the people on the ranch as soon he saw smoke. He also said the power went out there around 3:30 p.m.

“I got my people out of here,” he said. “They were quite alarmed.”

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