Crews on 2 NM fires hope to get break from weather

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By Associated Press

PECOS, N.M (AP) — Crews fighting two large uncontained wildfires in New Mexico focused Sunday on building protection lines around the blazes amid anticipation that a forecast of storms could bring moisture to help reduce the intensity of the fires.

Still, the forecast thunderstorms also bring the possibility of lightning that could start new fires and gusty winds that could help spread the blazes.

A fire burning in New Mexico's Santa Fe National Forest 25 miles from Santa Fe had grown to more than 11 square miles by Sunday morning.

Thick smoke from the fire covered Gallinas Canyon and Las Vegas, N.M.

The fire near the communities of Pecos and Tres Lagunas had prompted the evacuations of about 140 homes, most of them summer residences.

Crews also cleared out campgrounds and closed trailheads in the area as they worked to prevent the fire from moving toward the capital city's watershed and more populated areas.

Fire crew spokeswoman Denise Ottaviano says no homes have been burned.

The fire was less than a mile of some homes and was even closer to others.

Crews set up hoses, cleared away brush and built protection lines in an effort to protect the homes.

Firefighters were also working on protection lines around the four ends of the fire.

State environmental regulators on Saturday had warned residents in the Pecos, Santa Fe and Espanola areas to prepare for smoke and take precautions by avoiding prolonged or physical activity outdoors.

Richard Goodyear, leader of the Department of Environment's air quality bureau, said the air in those areas is now healthier to breathe and that no such warning had been issued for Sunday.

Another New Mexico blaze, the Thompson Ridge fire near Jemez Springs, grew to nearly 3 square miles by Sunday morning.

Forty to 50 homes in the area were evacuated.

New Mexico State Forestry spokesman Dan Ware says the fire hasn't destroyed any homes, but caused superficial damage to one house.

Crews were focusing Sunday on making sure protection lines built on the fire's western flank will hold.

Gov. Susanna Martinez plans to attend a community meeting Sunday afternoon for people living in Jemez Springs and La Cueva areas.

She also plans to attend a similar meeting Sunday evening about the fire near Santa Fe.