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New Mexico wildfires continues to spread

Extensive burning operations designed to protect a northern New Mexico community from a wildfire have proven successful so far, but firefighters have been unable to contain flames that blackened an estimated 32,000 acres, authorities said Sunday.

The two fires, about 250 miles (400 km) apart in the drought-parched Four Corners region of the Southwestern United States, have consumed nearly 32,000 acres (12,000 hectares)between them, officials said.

The larger of the two, the so-called Ute Park Fire in Colfax County, New Mexico, was zero percent contained after scorching some 30,000 acres by Saturday evening near Cimarron, a town of about 1,100 people northeast of Santa Fe, according to a bulletin on the New Mexico Fire Information website.

About 300 structures were threatened in Cimarron, where officials issued a mandatory evacuation on Friday. The town lies just northeast of the Santa Fe National Forest, which was indefinitely closed to the public on Friday in a rare measure prompted by the heightened fire risk from prolonged drought.

About a dozen outbuildings went up in flames on an adjacent ranch, fire officials said. But showers were expected to bring some relief to firefighters on Sunday, though lightning strikes and erratic winds from thunderstorms could also worsen the situation.

The cause of the fire, which began on Thursday and has been burning through grassland and pine forest, is not known.

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