Work Continues on Two New Mexico Blazes; Fire Danger in Critical Stage

Firefighters were mopping up hot spots and doing rehabilitation work Friday on two fires that have burned more than 73,000 acres in New Mexico.

The fire danger will be critical in New Mexico for the next several days as drier, warm air dominates the state, U.S. Forest Service officials said.

``This is the time of year when we just hold our breath as we have some of the worst conditions possible including drought-stressed vegetation,'' said Ken Palmrose, information and prevention officer in Phoenix.

Campfire, smoking and forest access restrictions have been posted across the state.

The Sedgwick Fire, which flared June 12 from a campfire, has scorched 8,600 acres in the Zuni Mountains, 17 miles west of Grants in western New Mexico.

The Peppin Fire, kindled May 10 by lightning, has blackened 64,448 acres in the Capitan Mountains, six miles northeast of Capitan in south-central New Mexico.

The Sedgwick Fire was 60 percent contained, said Diane Souder, a fire information officer.

``We've got a line around the complete perimeter of the fire,'' she said.

There were 860 people assigned to the fire, along with three helicopters, 18 engines, 15 water tenders and 10 bulldozers.

``We have a lot of firefighters that are starting to demobilize here. That's a good sign,'' Souder said.

The blaze, which she said has cost about $2.3 million so far, has burned pinon, juniper, ponderosa pine and mixed conifer trees in rough terrain in the Cibola National Forest.

Three juveniles have admitted starting the fire, said Jim Whittington, another fire information officer.

Authorities were not releasing the names or ages of the three, who have not been charged, he said.

The youngsters, who built a campfire in a restricted area, told investigators they doused it out using water, sand and a stick, Whittington said.

The fire started when they rested the stick against a tree, and its hot tip apparently fell off into a clump of pine needles, Whittington said.

The Peppin Fire was 95 percent contained, said Steve Bumgarner, incident commander.

``We will continue to have resources working on this fire for some time,'' he said.

The Peppin Fire is being tackled by 174 people using one helicopter, five engines and one bulldozer.

The fire, which officials said has cost more than $7 million to date, has burned 12 cabins along with pinon, juniper, ponderosa pine and mixed conifer trees in rugged country in the Cibola National Forest.