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New Mexico wildfire destroys dozens of buildings, homes

By Amy R. Connolly
New Mexico wildfire destroys dozens of buildings, homes
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez declared a state of emergency and put the National Guard on standby as a wildfire raged out of control. Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service

ALBUQUERQUE, June 17 (UPI) -- Dozens of buildings, including at least 24 homes, have been destroyed and mandatory evacuations issued as firefighters try to beat back a raging wildfire in central New Mexico, officials said Friday.

The fire, dubbed the Dog Head Fire, has already consumed some 16,000 acres in the Manzano Mountains, located southeast of Albuquerque, and is not contained, the U.S. Forest Service said. The blaze exploded in size from Thursday, when it was 2,000 acres.

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Several small communities, including Chilili, were evacuated. Residents likely won't be able to return for days. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez urged residents to heed warnings.

Don't refuse a mandatory evacuation. You have to leave your home. Your life cannot be replaced," she said. "Don't take any of those unnecessary risks because you are also putting others at risk."

More than 600 firefighters, including specialized Hot Shot crews, have been battling the blaze along with a convoy of air tankers and helicopters. The National Weather Service issued an air-quality alert for areas near the fire. Stagnant air and heavy smoke are expected to make breathing difficult for some people.

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On Thursday, Martinez declared a state of emergency and placed the National Guard on standby.

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