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Strong winds fuel New Mexico wildfires, prompt evacuations

April 12, 2022 GMT

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Strong spring winds fueled wildfires burning around New Mexico on Monday, prompting evacuations south of Albuquerque where authorities said some structures have burned and more are threatened.

About 100 firefighters were battling the latest blaze, which was burning out of control and sent up a large plume of smoke that could be seen for miles in the Rio Grande Valley.

Valencia County officials called for evacuations in the area and directed residents to a shelter at a community center in rural Belen, just south of Albuquerque.

They reported an unknown number of structures were lost, but it wasn’t immediately clear how many were homes, barns or other outbuildings. KOAT-TV broadcast aerial footage that showed at least one residence burning near Rio Communities.

Weather forecasters have warned of high fire danger statewide state due to gusty winds, dry conditions and low humidity levels.

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In northern New Mexico near the community of Las Vegas, crews also were grappling with the wind as they worked to corral a prescribed fire that had jumped its containment lines last week and prompted voluntary evacuations.

A larger inter-agency team with more than 170 firefighters assumed command of that fire on Monday. It’s estimated to have burned more than a square mile (2.5 square kilometers).