For the second year in a row, New Mexico is battling a huge, record-setting forest fire. The Whitewater-Baldy fire, triggered by lightning strikes, has torched more than 170,000 acres.
For the second year in a row, firefighters in New Mexico find themselves battling a record-breaking blaze.
Wednesday morning, fire officials reported that the Whitewater-Baldy fire had torched 170,272 acres since lightning triggered two fires May 9 and May 16 that merged to become the current conflagration.
Last June, the Las Conchas fire – ignited when a tree fell across a power line – charred a record 156,293 acres, threatening the town of Los Alamos and the US Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Fire officials say the potential for the fire's growth remains high. The Whitewater-Baldy fire is burning in the Gila National Forest in the southwest corner of the state, feeding on expanses of Ponderosa pine, junipers, grasses, and large areas of dead and downed trees. Extremely rugged terrain is making it difficult to control the blaze.
The fire, some 15 miles east of Glenwood, N.M., is threatening Mongollon, a mining town founded in the 1880s and now on the National Resigter of Historic Places. Residents in the area were evacuated over the weekend. The blaze also destroyed several homes in Willow Creek, which had been evacuated.