updated 4/13/2006 11:35:03 PM ET 2006-04-14T03:35:03

A wildfire forced the evacuation of three small towns as it burned across 12,500 acres of grass and ponderosa pine trees in northeastern New Mexico, authorities said.

Strong wind continued to push the fire Thursday as it headed into an area divided by canyons, state Forestry Division spokesman Dan Ware said. The fire was first spotted Wednesday on ranch land 11 miles north of Mora, and then moved into ponderosa pine, jumping from tree top to tree top.

About 450 firefighters were battling the blaze, Ware said.

Shelters were set up in Mora and Wagon Mound for evacuees from Ojo Feliz, Los Hueros, Le Febres and ranches in the area, Ware said. He did not know how many people or homes were evacuated but said one structure had been destroyed.

Authorities also called for voluntary evacuations in the town of Ocate and an area west of the fire.

Investigators were trying to determine what sparked the fire, Ware said.

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