New Mexico Wildfire Continues to Burn

June 05, 2012; 6:31 PM
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Photograph of crew members from the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew of Prescott NF cutting fire line outside of the towm of Mogollon. Courtesy of USFS Gila National Forest.

The Whitewater-Baldy wildfire in the Gila National Forest in New Mexico has spread to more than 241,000 acres since being started by lightning May 16, 2012.

As of early Monday morning, more than 1,100 firefighters were working to contain the blaze, according to InciWeb.org. The crews are using 67 fire engines, 29 water tenders and 9 helicopters against the spreading fire.

Areas close to the fire may experience air that is unhealthy for sensitive groups with conditions like asthma, heart conditions or lung issues, according to nmfireinfo.com. The elderly, infants and pregnant women should also exercise caution when outdoors in heavy smoke.

Smoke in the area of Willow Creek is reported to be minimal.

The fire is reported to be 17 percent contained. Early Monday morning, 241,701 acres were burning. The Whitewater-Baldy wildfire is the largest wildfire ever in New Mexico.

This map of the Gila Forest Wildfire shows the progression of the fire from May 18 through June 2, 2012. The map is courtesy of USFS Gila National Forest.

As the efforts continue, the weather will not be much help.

AccuWeather Forecaster Evan Duffey said, "Winds today will be out of the west and a bit breezy. At times the wind will gust to more than 20 m.p.h. posing some problems for the firefighters."

"Tomorrow, the winds will relax and the firefighters will have a better shot at controlling the blaze. The calmer conditions will last through Wednesday, then winds will pick up towards the end of the week," Duffey said.

Large wildfires over rough terrain such as the Gila Forest Wildfire are able to generate their own wind as they burn.

No rain is forecast in the immediate future, making it difficult for the firefighters to battle the blaze. Dry brush continues to fuel the flames as the fire continues to spread.

Firefighters and other workers should take frequent breaks and be sure to remain hydrated in the intense heat.

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