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Fast-burning forest fire sparks in Manzano Mountains

An uncontained wildfire in the Manzano Mountains burned rapidly Tuesday, growing to between 800 and 1,000 acres by night, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

The Dog Head Fire broke out on National Forest land close to the Isleta Pueblo border and south of the Chilili Land Grant, Forest Service spokeswoman Arlene Perea said.

Ryan Steffens, a Tajique artist, uses binoculars to get a better view of a forest fire near Fourth of July Campground in the Manzano Mountains Tuesday. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

Ryan Steffens, a Tajique artist, uses binoculars to get a better view of a forest fire near Fourth of July Campground in the Manzano Mountains Tuesday. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

The blaze, which started at 6 to 8 acres, grew rapidly over the afternoon and into the evening.

A fire burning in the Manzano Mountains is seen from the Albuquerque International Sunport Tuesday afternoon. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

A fire burning in the Manzano Mountains is seen from the Albuquerque International Sunport Tuesday afternoon. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

“It’s active, it’s moving,” Perea said. “I’ve seen fires move faster, but it’s definitely going. It’s definitely burning some stuff up there.”

Though the fire was believed to be up to 1,000 acres Tuesday night, the exact acreage of the fire was unconfirmed, according to Perea.

“The fire was just so intense today that even the air resources were having a hard time figuring out where exactly it was,” Perea said.

But despite the rapid growth, Forest Service officials say the burn isn’t going as fast as it was when it first sparked.

Linda Kayser, with the Emergency Command Center, said a voluntary evacuation issued Tuesday evening affected a couple dozen people and that evacuees were welcome to stay at the Tajique Community Center or the Torrance County Fairgrounds. The Inlow Youth Camp was also evacuated as a precaution.

Hot shot, engine and hand crews fought the fire from the ground Tuesday while air tankers dropped fire retardant and water. Flames were visible from N.M. 337 between Tajique and Chilili.

The cause of the fire remains undetermined. Perea said the immediate focus was on suppression, but an investigator would be called in when conditions improved.

Perea said that firefighters hoped the weather would cooperate overnight.

“We know that it’s going to be hot tomorrow,” she said. “Our hope is that we get lower temperatures and higher humidity overnight. That would help us.”

Mountain View Telegraph reporter Todd Dickson contributed to this report.

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