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Copters to assist in New Mexico blaze

GLENWOOD, N.M. -- Crews fighting a wildfire in the Gila National Forest in New Mexico planned to take advantage of lighter winds yesterday, building protection lines on key flanks of the blaze and preparing to send water-dropping helicopters into the air for the first time in several days.

The Whitewater-Baldy Complex fire continued to grow, burning more than 122,000 acres, or 191 square miles, by midday yesterday and was two miles away from the privately owned ghost town of Mogollon in the southwest. The town was evacuated Saturday during extreme winds, but no homes have been destroyed.

Denise Ottaviano, a spokeswoman for the crew fighting the blaze, said the fire remains active near Mogollon, but the blaze hasn't made a significant push toward the town. Crews were working to build a protection line between Mogollon and the fire's western edge.

The blaze destroyed a dozen homes and several outbuildings Wednesday in Willow Creek, which remains under evacuation. No other communities were threatened. The blaze is about 250 miles east of Phoenix.

Yesterday, crews were building protection lines on the fire's western and northern edges and preparing to send five helicopters up to focus on the blaze's hot spots. Despite tamer winds, crews were contending with extremely dry conditions and an expected decrease in humidity.

In western Colorado, gusty winds spread two wildfires that have burned more than 7,000 acres. One fire has scorched at least 5,000 acres near the Colorado-Utah border; the other has burned 2,325 acres northwest of Pagosa Springs, near the New Mexico border.

-- AP

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