SANTA FE, N.M. A fire raging in a southern New Mexico mountainrange, where a singed cub later named Smokey Bear was found clinging to acharred tree half a century ago, has consumed more than 25,000 acres,officials said Thursday.
Steep canyons and an abundance of dry foliage are feeding the Peppin Firethat has also destroyed 12 cabins. The blaze shows no sign of slowing down, fireofficials said.
“We have zero containment,” said fire information officer GwenSchaffer. “It just blew out the lines (fire breaks) and keeps going andgoing and going.”
Schaffer said 471 personnel are using five helicopters, two single-engineplanes, and 23 engines to fight the blaze that was caused by lightning on May15. There has been one minor injury.
It is the first major fire in New Mexico this season, and dry conditions inthe area indicate it will be a long fire season, Schaffer said.
Gov. Bill Richardson declared a state of emergency for Lincoln County Mondayto free state and local resources to fight the fire. The efforts to battle theblaze have cost an estimated $800,000 so far, Schaffer said.
On the same mountain range in 1950, fire fighters found a bear cub withsinged paws and fur in a charred forest. Smokey Bear, who was given to theNational Zoo in Washington, D.C., was nursed back to health and quickly becamethe nation’s most famous symbol for forest fire prevention.
Many of the trees in the area had been killed due to a massive infestation ofbark beetles in the state, Schaffer said. Some rain and calm winds on Thursdayhelped the fire fighters.
“We’re hoping the rain will slow this down a bit and give us a breather,”she said.