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1,200 firefighters battle record New Mexico blaze

Published: Saturday, June 2 2012 9:29 a.m. MDT

A firefighter works an area along the northwest perimeter of a massive blaze in the Gila National Forest in New Mexico in this photo made on Wednesday, May 30, 2012, and released by the U.S. Forest Service Friday. More than 1,200 firefighters are battling the fire that has burned nearly 217,000 acres in an isolated mountainous area of southwestern New Mexico.  (U.S. Forest Service, Alan Sinclair, Associated Press) A firefighter works an area along the northwest perimeter of a massive blaze in the Gila National Forest in New Mexico in this photo made on Wednesday, May 30, 2012, and released by the U.S. Forest Service Friday. More than 1,200 firefighters are battling the fire that has burned nearly 217,000 acres in an isolated mountainous area of southwestern New Mexico. (U.S. Forest Service, Alan Sinclair, Associated Press)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The more than 1,200 firefighters who are battling the nation's largest wildfire in rugged mountains and canyons of southwestern New Mexico are racing to build lines to corral the massive blaze.

The fire had charred more than 354 square miles by Saturday morning, and crews were bracing for more dry and windy conditions.

Fire information officer Lee Bentley says the focus is on the western edge of the Whitewater-Baldy fire.

The fire is expected to start backing down the mountains east of the community of Glenwood, and officials say residents should expect to see more smoke and flames as firefighters continue their backburn operations.

Bentley says gusts could reach close to 30 mph Saturday, resulting in active to extreme fire behavior.

The fire is about 15 percent contained.

This photo provided by the U.S. Forest Service shows a hotshot during burnout operations at the Gila National Forest blaze, Friday June 1, 2012. Fire officials said Friday, that the massive Gila Wilderness blaze is now nearly 217,000 acres. That’s more than 25,000 acres larger than than the day before.  (U.S. Forest Service Gila National Forest, Brandon Oberhardt, Associated Press) This photo provided by the U.S. Forest Service shows a hotshot during burnout operations at the Gila National Forest blaze, Friday June 1, 2012. Fire officials said Friday, that the massive Gila Wilderness blaze is now nearly 217,000 acres. That’s more than 25,000 acres larger than than the day before. (U.S. Forest Service Gila National Forest, Brandon Oberhardt, Associated Press)

It has charred 227,000 acres of the Gila National Forest and a dozen cabins and several outbuildings have been destroyed.

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