New Mexico Wildland Fire Continues to Grow

TAOS, N.M. --

A 1,200-acre blaze forced evacuations near Sipapu on Highway 518 near mile marker 55, which is close to Rock Wall. The blaze has been named the Osha Fire.

The highway is closed in both directions.

Residents near the Sipapu Ski area were asked to evacuate on Wednesday. Fire officials said further evacuations are possible.

"It's terribly nerve-wracking because I left things like my passport, my birth certificate, and important papers because it never occurred to me that I would not be going back there," resident Ruth Ann Hickey said.

The American Red Cross opened a shelter at the Penasco Community Center.

Vice President of the Penasco Area Communities Association Eric Mack said that they have 35 people who evacuated from the Fa-Yun Buddhist Monastery and Teaching Institute at the community center. The monastery is between Sipapu and Rock Wall.

Several structures are threatened by the fire, but none have been lost.

"They were in the middle of meditation. Law enforcement went in with fire crews and spoke with them, advised them that they needed to evacuate," said Eletha Trujillo, of Emergency Management.

Mack said he is expecting more evacuees and the Red Cross.

Carson National Forest spokesman Troy Waskey said the fire was caused by downed power lines.

Local firefighters and engines from the Camino Real and the Questa Ranger Districts were called to the scene. Air tankers were also called in to drop water on the flames.

"Right now, we have approximately 200 air and ground resources at the incident. We're also elevating this to a type one incident management team," Waskey said.

Fire officials said the fire is spreading north of Highway 518, into a forest, but there aren't any homes in the fire's path in that direction.

Forest officials said the fire is not contained at all.

Air crews stopped for the night late Wednesday but resumed Thursday morning. Ground operations are ongoing.

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