New Mexico wildfire burns homes, forces evacuations

SANTA FE, New Mexico Mon Mar 7, 2011 9:18pm EST

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SANTA FE, New Mexico (Reuters) - A wildfire burning out of control in southwestern New Mexico has destroyed several homes and threatened hundreds more, prompting evacuations, authorities said on Monday.

Gusts of 50 miles per hour were fanning the flames, which have so far consumed "at least" five structures, and more than 500 acres of tinder dry land, Silver City Fire Lt. Nathaniel Schwarz said.

Some 200 homes were ordered evacuated.

"It's as bad as it gets," Schwarz said.

He said the fire was "obviously man-made" but that there were no suspects at this time.

At least nine different agencies plus local law enforcement have been dispatched to fight the fire, including State Forestry and the National Forest Service.

"We've called out the cavalry on this one," Schwarz said.

All efforts were focused on stopping the fire, which was spreading rapidly due to extreme dry conditions and strong winds.

Silver City has received only one tenth of an inch of rain since January first.

(Reporting by Zelie Polon; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Jerry Norton)

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