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New Mexico wildfire, largest ever in the state, continues to burn (+video)

The Whitewater-Baldy blaze has burned more than nearly 300 square miles in New Mexico. It's now the largest wildfire burning in the country.

How wildfires start, and how to fight them.
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A smoky haze hangs over the rugged canyons and tree-covered expanses of southwestern New Mexico as the largest wildfire in the state's recorded history marches across more of the Gila Wilderness.

The virtually unchecked wildfire is fueling experts' predictions that this is a preview of things to come as states across the West contend with a dangerous recipe of wind, low humidity and tinder-dry fuels.

The Whitewater-Baldy blaze has charred more than 190,000 acres, or nearly 300 square miles, in Gila National Forest and has become the largest wildfire burning in the country.

IN PICTURES: New Mexico wildfires

Gov. Susana Martinez viewed the fire from a New Mexico National Guard helicopter Thursday and saw the thick smoke shrouding some of the steep canyons that are inaccessible to firefighters. She described the terrain as "impossible," saying there was no way for firefighters to directly attack the flames in the rugged areas of wilderness.

"It's going to keep going up," she said of the acreage burned. "Be prepared for that."

Along the fire's northern edge, Martinez spotted crews doing burnout operations designed to slow the erratic blaze, which has surpassed last year's Las Conchas fire as the state's largest ever. That fire charred 156,593 acres and threatened the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the nation's premier nuclear facility.

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