Fire Grows in New Mexico's Capitan Mountains

CAPITAN, N.M. (AP) -- A forest fire in south-central New Mexico's Capitan Mountains had grown to 9,500 acres Tuesday as firefighters worked to protect homes in the area.

Gov. Bill Richardson had already declared a state of emergency because of the fire in Lincoln County.

Some two dozen homes - only seven of them occupied - were ordered evacuated Sunday when the fire more than tripled in size. The fire was started May 15 by lightning.

Firefighters bulldozed lines around homes in the area and fire engines were stationed near them as a precaution.

Fire information officer Beth Wilson said no injuries were reported. At least one structure may have been lost in the Pine Lodge area, but fire officials did not have any details.

The governor's emergency declaration made Monday allows the National Guard to assist with the firefighting, including two helicopters, and frees up $750,000 in state assistance.

``I want the state to do everything possible to protect the homes and property in its path,'' Richardson said.

The fire was burning in mixed coniferous forest. Much of the standing timber had already been killed by bark beetles and was tinder-dry, Wilson said.

Other fires in the state included one that had charred 4,750 acres about 50 miles away in the Cibola National Forest. It was 60 percent contained.