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Haze Warning For Metro Area

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Wildfire smoke moving into the Albuquerque area prompted the city’s Environmental Health Department to issue an air quality alert on Thursday, and the haze could linger through the weekend.

Smoke from the Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire in the southwestern part of the state was expected to float toward populated areas in the Rio Grande Valley, including Socorro, Albuquerque and Santa Fe, from Thursday night through Saturday, the National Weather Service said. Poor air quality is expected into Sunday morning.

The smoke could impact visibility and health. The weather service said visibility is often the best indicator of air quality, which is considered very unhealthy when visibility is under two miles.

The Environmental Health Department recommended that all individuals, especially those sensitive to particulate pollution, take precautions when outdoors in areas where smoke is visible or can be smelled. Residents are also advised to keep windows and doors closed, to use air conditioners or heating systems for comfort, and to limit time spent outdoors during times of visible smoke or when smoke odor exists.

The state is under a high fire danger, or red flag warning, due to high winds and dry conditions with low humidity, according to the weather service. Windy conditions are expected in the Albuquerque area through the weekend with especially strong winds on Saturday.

City open space fire restrictions are permanently in place. Smoking, open fires, camping and fireworks are prohibited.

The Whitewater-Baldy Fire burning in the Gila Wilderness and Gila National Forest area has destroyed 12 homes and seven small outbuildings, fire officials said. Many structures are still at risk.

The blaze, which started as two separate lightning-sparked fires, has spread across more than 70,500 acres. The fire was at zero containment as of Thursday.

Meanwhile, in the Manzano Mountains late Thursday firefighters were battling a five-acre blaze about four miles west of the village of Manzano, said fire information officer Vicki Fox. Air crews were making drops trying to suppress the fire and ground crews were expected to be sent to the site this morning.

No structures were in immediate danger, but the Red Canyon Campground was evacuated as a precaution, Fox said. The cause of the fire was not immediately known.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal