Published : Wednesday, 06 May 2009, 8:05 PM MDT
TIMBERON, N.M. (KBIM-KRQE) - A forest fire of unknown origin continues to rage in the Sacramento Mountains forcing some residents of Timberon to flee for safety and burning several buildings possibly including homes.
At last report Thursday morning, officials had revised their estimates of the fire's size to 60 to 80 acres with no containment. Three to five structures had burned, but officials couldn't confirm if any of those buildings were homes, and another six to eight structures were immediately threatened.
Twenty homes were evacuated. The American Red Cross has set up an evacuation center at Cloudcroft High School.
The fire settled down somewhat overnight, according to the report, but still remained quite active.
On Wednesday, the fire was reported to be crowning through the treetops.
"The homes that are the most in danger are in the west-southwest portion of this village," State Forestry spokesperson Dan Ware told KRQE News 13. "We're talking a lot of spread-out homes and structures."
The flames may have consumed three or four homes, according to information from a Timberon resident relayed to News 13 by a relative. The fire began about 1:30 p.m. on a clear day suggesting it is human-caused, the resident said.
There have been no reports of injuries.
Timberon sits at about 7,100 feet elevation in the Sacramentos 25 miles southeast of Alamogordo and on the southern boundary of the Lincoln National Forest. About 300 people live there.
Late in the evening the American Red Cross reported 15 residents had checked into a shelter set up at Cloudcroft High School 30 miles north of the fire zone.
Timberon resident Rocky Norris said he had two SUVs, a camper and a trailer packed and ready to evacuate. Norris also posted video of smoke rising above the trees on his Norris Family Web site .
"Pack it up and get ready to get out of here because it's coming through," Norris says on one of the video clips. "As dry as it is with no moisture and everything, it makes no sense for anybody to stick around."
It was not clear if Norris stayed the night or followed New Mexico State Police advice to evacuate the community.
KRQE Chief Meteorologist Mark Ronchetti called the moisture deficit in the Timberon area "staggering." On average by this time of year Timberon should have received more than 5.5 inches of precipitation, but this year has received barely 1 inch, 81 percent below the average, he said.
The forecast for Thursday is a high of 85 degrees with west winds of 15-25 mph, he said.
During daylight two heavy air tankers worked the fire, and two additional planes have been ordered. Aerial tankers often are stationed at the Alamogordo airport during fire season although it is not know if these are among them.
Crews from area fire departments, the Forest Service and State Forestry have been battling the fire.
The fire also is being discussed in an online forum at City-Data.com.