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New Mexico Wildfire Smoke Travels To Front Range In Colorado

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The fire burning in New Mexico (credit: CBS)

The fire burning in New Mexico (credit: CBS)

GALLERIES: COLORADO'S WORST WILDFIRES

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP/CBS4) – Residents near a privately owned New Mexico ghost town were ordered Saturday to evacuate as a blaze in the Gila National Forest continued to burn erratically, as Colorado crews took to fighting a new fire along the Utah-Colorado border.

Fire officials in New Mexico said Saturday that the Whitewater-Baldy Complex fire has shrunk slightly to 82,000 acres but is still 0 percent contained because of weather conditions. The evacuation of Mogollon, a privately owned ghost town, was ordered due to extreme wind around the southwestern New Mexico fire. Four helicopters and more than 500 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 Denver and Albuquerque, remained under a health alert until Sunday afternoon due to smoke from the fire, which has spread across the state and into Colorado. 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.

new mexico smoke New Mexico Wildfire Smoke Travels To Front Range In Colorado

Hazy sky in Denver Saturday morning from the smoke from the New Mexico wildfire (credit: CBS)

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 30 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.

Authorities evacuated about 100 homes in the Shelter Valley area along Highway 78 in the early stages of the blaze, but evacuation orders were lifted late Thursday and residents were allowed to return, Schuler said.

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.

-  By By RUSSELL CONTRERAS, Associated Press

Associated Press writers Rema Rahman in Denver and Sandra Chereb in Carson City, Nev., contributed to this report.

Wildfire Resources

- Visit CBSDenver.com’s Wildfire Resources section.

- Read recent Wildfire stories.

Wildfire Photo Galleries

- See images from the most destructive wildfire (Fourmile Fire) and largest wildfire (Hayman Fire) in Colorado history.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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