SANTA FE (KRQE) - Firefighters established defensive positions in the Gila National Forest Monday to protect a community and national monument from the monster Miller Fire.
Late Monday morning the U.S. Forest Service reporter firefighters were staged at the community of Gila Hot Springs and at the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument and Visitor Center.
Gila Hot Springs is under a voluntary evacuation with shelter set up for evacuees at the Grant County Business and Conference Center in Silver City. Anyone leaving will not be allowed back in until conditions improve, the Forest Service said.
The was reported to have now spread over nearly 33,000 acres burning mostly on the ground and occasionally torching small stands of trees.
A Red Flag Warning for gusty winds, high temperatures and low humidities is in effect through 10 p.m. At midmorning fire behavior was described as moderate with increased activity expected during the afternoon.
Smoke is visible from Silver City and Cliff and is settling in valleys creating unhealthy conditions with respiratory and heart ailments.
Earlier coverage Monday May 9:
As firefighters brace for strong winds across New Mexico Monday, a number of new and continuing wildfires continue to burn.
At about 2 p.m. Sunday flames flared up southeast of Santa Fe along the Old Las Vegas Highway charring 14 acres and destroying one home.
Crews stopped the fire from spreading and worked overnight. But a big chunk of land is still on fire.
"We've just seen flames all day long," Angelic Hatchel, who was forced from the area by the fire, said Sunday. "They're able to get a good hold on the fire every once in a while, and then a gust of wind will take hold and you see something billowing."
"It just raced up that hill with tremendous speed," added Gary King, who drove through flames on his way out. "Lots of tall black clouds just blanketing the sky."
At last report the fire was zero percent contained with firefighters are trying to hold containment lines.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Meanwhile residents of Gila Hot Springs are also on the fire alert and under a voluntary evacuation. State Road 15 is closed at SR 35, and numerous trails and campgrounds in the area also are closed.
There the Miller Fire has been burning for more than a week south of the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.
The wildfire has burned more than 27,000 acres and is believed to be human-caused.
And more than 200 firefighters are battling the lightning-caused Crooked Creek Complex fire 15 miles northwest of Hope in southeast New Mexico.
More than 16,000 acres have burned, and as of Monday morning the blaze is 30 percent contained.
No structures are threatened.
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