ALBUQUERQUE — Weather forecasters and land managers warned that warm, windy and dry conditions were combining to boost fire danger around New Mexico as authorities called for evacuations due to a wildfire burning in the Smokey Bear Ranger District.
The Three Rivers Fire, detected Monday morning on the backside of the White Mountains in Southern New Mexico, had grown from 30 acres to more than 4,000 by late afternoon, KOAT-TV reported, and was expected to continue spreading. Its cause was still unknown.
Meanwhile, the 52-acre Paradise Loop Fire in Torrance County, which ignited Saturday, was 85 percent contained Monday, and the Peterson Fire northwest of Las Vegas, N.M., was 80 percent contained after burning 30 acres.
Smoke billowed Monday afternoon in an area between the rural communities of Tularosa and Carrizozo. Evacuation notices were issued for parts of Lincoln County that included Nogal and Bonito canyons and the Ski Apache area, but authorities did not say whether any structures were immediately threatened by the fast-moving wildfire.
The National Weather Service in Albuquerque said critical fire weather was expected to shift Tuesday to the eastern part of the state, while much of Central and Southern New Mexico would see more unsettled weather by Wednesday and Thursday.
The city of Las Cruces issued a temporary ban on open burning in hopes of preventing any wildfires. The first stage of fire restrictions will take effect Tuesday on the Gila National Forest in southwestern New Mexico.
“We have seen an increase in abandoned campfires and feel it’s critical to reduce the potential for any additional fire starts during this period of drought and high fire danger,” said Adam Mendonca, the forest supervisor.
More than half of New Mexico is dealing with exceptional drought conditions, making for a much worse situation than just a year ago.