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Fast-moving New Mexico fire burns 82,000 acres

May 25, 2012|By Michael Muskal

Firefighters on Friday fought a fast-growing blaze in New Mexico where two smaller fires have merged into a fierce blaze covering extreme terrain that is making containment efforts difficult.

A total of 82,252 acres have been burned by the fire, known as the Whitewater-Baldy Complex in the Gila National Forest, fire officials reported.

The Baldy fire was reported May 9 and the Whitewater on May 16. They merged on Wednesday, and almost all of the growth has come since then as winds have whipped through the difficult terrain.

Even though the combined blaze continues to grow and is uncontained, officials said the fire behavior was not as extreme as in previous days. No new structures have been destroyed in the last 24 hours, though 12 cabins and 13 out-buildings have been lost since the fire began, officials said.

The fire, about 15 miles east of Glenwood, N.M., began with a lightning strike, officials said.

It is burning in steep, rugged terrain with mixed conifer in the Glenwood, Reserve and Wilderness ranger districts along with an area of private land known as Willow Creek Subdivision, officials said. The rough terrain has hindered firefighting efforts as has shifting winds.

In northern Nevada, high winds were expected near Topaz Lake Estates, where more than 7,500 acres have burned. That fire is 35% contained and is expected to be fully contained by Saturday.

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michael.muskal@latimes.com

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