ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Just a year after New Mexico saw its biggest wildfire on record, one burning through the Gila National Forest on Tuesday was set to take over the top spot.
The U.S. Forest Service said the blaze had grown to about 152,000 acres — just 5,000 acres from breaking the state record and nearly 20,000 more acres since Monday. It is about 15 miles east of Glenwood, N.M., a small town with a few hundred residents.
More than 1,100 firefighters and nine helicopters from around the state were fighting the blaze. But officials said extremely low humidity will keep making efforts against the fire difficult.
The two lightning-sparked fires merged last week to form the giant blaze, which has destroyed 12 cabins and seven small outbuildings. One fire was first spotted May 9 and the second blaze was sparked May 16, but nearly all of the growth has come in recent days due to relentless winds.
Those winds forced crews to the sidelines last week as the fire rapidly spread in an isolated area.
Evacuation orders remained in effect for some 200 homes in the vicinity of the historic Wild West mining town of Mogollon, and for about 60 cabins in the nearby community of Willow Creek, where 12 dwellings and 13 outbuildings were lost last Wednesday.
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Officials said areas around some of New Mexico's largest cities, including Albuquerque and as far southeast as Roswell, will see smoke by late Tuesday.
A fire last year that burned about 157,000 acres was the state's largest. That blaze threatened property around Las Alamos National Laboratory, the nation's premier nuclear facility.
Dry and hot conditions in the Southwest have also fueled wildfires in other states, including Colorado. Hundreds of firefighters were at an 8-square-mile fire in western Colorado near that state's border with Utah, and a separate 4-square-mile blaze about 200 miles southwest of Denver.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.