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Pine Lodge Fire grows to more than 9,000 acres

Smoke plume from the Pine Lodge Fire rises from the Capitan Mountains on June 21 2019. (Photo courtesy Lincoln National Forest)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Pine Lodge Fire in south-central New Mexico had grown to 9,053 acres by Tuesday afternoon and was 5% contained.

The fire is burning in the Capitan Mountain Wilderness, five miles northwest of the small community of Arabela in Lincoln County. It was detected last Wednesday and is now the largest of several wildfires burning in New Mexico. The cause of the fire is still unknown. More than 500 personnel are assigned to the firefighting operations. At least three cabins have been burned in the fire.

A smoke advisory was in effect Tuesday for areas around the Pine Lodge Fire because of fire crews working on burnout operations.

Terrence Gallegos, one of the operation sections chiefs for Southwest Team 5, hosted a video update on the Lincoln National Forest Facebook page Tuesday afternoon.

“We’re at about 5% containment, and we expect that to go up in the coming days,” Gallegos said. “We’ve got operations on all sides (of the fire). We know there are some structures we want to protect. We also have divisions focused on assessing risk in case the fire moves further south or west.”

The Forest Service said that strong winds have pushed the fire in multiple directions since its detection and have made containment difficult. But the agency’s latest update states that a cool front and “slightly higher humidities are helping reduce fire activity.”

Forest Service firefighters hosted a community meeting on Monday night in Capitan. The state Forest Service representatives thanked local fire departments who helped when the fire was initially detected.

Because of the wildfire and firefighting operations, N.M. 246 from Capitan to Roswell is closed, with only local access allowed. The Lincoln National Forest is closed from Capitan Mountain to Capitan Gap Road.