Blaze in Capitan Mountains Jumps Lines

CAPITAN, N.M. (AP) -- A fire burning in the Capitan Mountains jumped containment lines on the northwest side Tuesday, spreading to 37,000 acres and sending firefighters scrambling to stop it.

A full crew stayed on the Peppin Fire overnight, a change from the patrols that had kept watch on the blaze in previous nights, fire information officer Joe Luttman said Wednesday. The fire was 45 percent contained by early Wednesday.

Fire officials dispatched engines to protect some private property in the Capitan Gap area, but no evacuations were ordered and no structures were in immediate danger.

Luttman said the flames were two to three miles away, but that engines were sent to the area around Lincoln County Road 6 to give residents some peace of mind.

``There was a pretty good orange glow right at dusk,'' he said.

Temperatures increased and the wind shifted to the northwest late Tuesday, sending spot flames across the containment line north of Capitan Pass, Luttman said.

The rest of the lines held and the battle in those areas was going well, he said.

``The north side is quite cold with only a few smokes,'' as is the east side around Arabella, Luttman said. The fire on the south ``seems to be backing down quite nicely,'' he added.

The Peppin blaze is six miles northeast of Capitan, burning away from the south-central New Mexico town of about 1,500.

Some 642 people were assigned to the fire, along with five helicopters, 21 engines, 17 water tenders and three bulldozers.

The crews are holding up well, Luttman said. ``They're used to this stuff and it's early in the season yet,'' he said.

The lightning-sparked fire was reported May 15 in rugged terrain in the Lincoln National Forest in south-central New Mexico. Early on, it burned 12 cabins and several outbuildings.

Burnouts were done Tuesday along the southeastern and southern flanks of the fire.

The cost of fighting the fire stood at more than $3 million, officials said.