Wildfire Forces Albuquerque Evacuations
By PATRICIA GARCIA
.c The Associated Press
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - A wind-driven fire Tuesday roared through brush along the Rio Grande in Albuquerque, forcing more than 600 people to evacuate.
The fire, which had grown to 600 acres by Tuesday evening, left 16,000 homes and businesses temporarily without power and destroyed a house under construction. Gov. Bill Richardson declared a state of emergency.
``It's traveling ... at about 20 miles an hour,'' Fire Chief Robert Ortega said.
``Right now, they're trying to get ahead of the fire and break it off,'' Albuquerque police spokesman Jeff Arbogast said. ``We're just hoping to contain it and suppress it.''
No one was hurt except a firefighter who suffered a minor hand injury, Ortega said.
The fire started along the west side of the Rio Grande, then jumped the river and threatened an area of north Albuquerque where many high-priced homes are located.
About 200 homes and a condominium complex were evacuated, and Interstate 40 - thick with grayish-white smoke - was shut down.
The wildfire was one of many burning Tuesday in Arizona and New Mexico. Firefighters in both states were hampered by hot, windy weather, low humidity and dry vegetation.
Firefighters in Arizona made progress Tuesday against a 25,000-acre mountain blaze that devastated the vacation community of Summerhaven, north of Tucson. But after conducting a more detailed assessment of the damage, fire officials raised their estimate of the number of homes destroyed from more than 250 to more than 330.
Dean Barnella, chief of the Mount Lemmon Fire District, said 133 homes in the area were spared, but that the fate of many others was unknown. Before the fire the mountaintop had about 700 homes - most occupied by seasonal residents.
Southeast of Summerhaven, crews held a line protecting up to 70 cabins and homes, campgrounds and an observatory, said Larry Humphrey, commander of the team battling the blaze.
The wildfire on 9,157-foot Mount Lemmon was 25 percent contained Tuesday. More than 1,200 firefighters and support personnel had been deployed.
Associated Press writer Arthur H. Rotstein contributed to this story.
On the Net:
National Interagency Fire Center: http://www.nifc.gov