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Firefighters tame New Mexico blaze

house fire
This house near Ruidoso was one of more than 30 destroyed by fire over the weekend.  

RUIDOSO, New Mexico (CNN) -- A fire that destroyed more than two dozen homes over the weekend in south-central New Mexico was nearly contained Monday, and residents who had been evacuated will be returning home, a National Park Service spokesman said.

Three other fires were still burning in the area, but not threatening homes, Dan Oltrogge said. No injuries were reported from the fires, and the causes were unknown.

Winds, which had gusted to 60 mph Saturday when the Kokopelli fire began north of Ruidoso, were down to about 10 mph Monday morning, helping those fighting the blaze, he said. Authorities said it had caused about $5 million in damage.

"We're beginning to scale back the number of folks we have here and the amount of equipment we have here," he said. Everything should be scaled back by Wednesday, he added.

Photo gallery: Images of the blaze 

The Kokopelli fire, which scorched more than 800 acres and destroyed 28 homes and a barn, forced the evacuation of about 1,300 people, some of whom sought shelter with relief agencies.

"Some of them are going to find they've lost their homes. Most of them are going to be happy, I think, because the majority of the homes were saved," said Oltrogge, referring to returning residents.

The largest of the fires is the "5/Number 2" fire, which had covered about 12,000 acres in the Hondo Valley area east of Ruidoso by Sunday, and briefly forced a small number of residents of adjacent canyons to abandon their homes.

The residents were allowed to return Sunday night, said Max Johnson, a spokesman for the state's emergency operations center.

The area has been parched by drought in recent months, making thick groves of pine trees and grassland highly combustible, said Ruidoso Fire Department spokesman James Mason.

The other two fires, the 150-acre Rock Crusher blaze and the 100-acre South Bull Well fire, were burning in largely unpopulated areas on the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation south of Ruidoso.




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