Firefighters Mop Up Blazes Near Albuquerque, New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE (AP) -- Firefighters are mopping up what's left of a pair of blazes that sent up large curtains of smoke at opposite ends of the city.

Crews had their hands full Thursday evening when a blaze broke out in the wooded area along the Rio Grande north of Albuquerque, near Bernalillo. More than 700 customers were initially without power as lightning brought down a power pole in the area and strong winds pushed flames through the bosque.

The Public Service Company of New Mexico worked to restore power as firefighters battled flames that were believed to have been sparked by a lightning strike.

Dan Ware, a spokesman for the state Forestry Division, said the River's Edge Fire was 25 percent contained after burning its way through at least 40 acres. No homes were threatened.

''We've got a perimeter around the fire so it's not going to grow anymore,'' Ware said.

On the southern end of Albuquerque, firefighters at Kirtland Air Force Base worked quick to build fire lines around a grass fire that started near the foot of the Manzano Mountains. Officials suspect lightning was the cause.

''The wind made it really tough to fight and we worked it pretty hard to make good things happen,'' said Brent Wilson, the incident commander.

Wind gusts in the Albuquerque area neared 40 mph Thursday.

Kirtland firefighters got air support from the U.S. Forest Service, and Wilson said the fire was fully contained by nightfall.

Wilson estimated between 300 and 500 acres burned. He said officials were waiting to survey the damage from above to get a more accurate estimate.

Kirtland's golf course and a set of horse stables were evacuated and Sandia National Laboratories closed some nearby buildings as a precaution. The fire was never in a position to threaten any of the facilities at the lab or the base, Wilson said.

Ware said the River's Edge Fire burned into an area that had been charred previously and cleared of nonnative vegetation.

Firefighters were patrolling the blaze to make sure no hot spots flared up, he said.

Amy Miller, a PNM spokeswoman, said crews restored power to more than 400 people soon after the outage was reported and the remaining customers had power by 7 p.m.

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