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Firefighters Corralling N.M. Blazes

Firefighters struggled in rugged terrain Wednesday to corral a fire that burned at least 727 acres in the Santa Fe National Forest and briefly threatened Santa Fe's watershed.

The fire, which forced 300 people to evacuate, was 50 percent contained Wednesday. It erupted Monday and quickly engulfed hundreds of acres in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

"We did have some very strong gusts, but the work we did last night and early this morning held very well," fire information officer Jim Whittington said Wednesday.

Higher humidity expected Thursday should help, Whittington said.

Investigators want to question two men seen jumping into a white sport-utility vehicle where the fire started, he said.

"Immediately after that vehicle left the area, the fire was spotted," Whittington said.

No homes burned and no fire-related injuries were reported, state police Lt. Rob Shilling said.

Residents forced to leave their homes in Dalton and Pecos canyons were allowed to return Tuesday night to gather belongings but were back out before dawn Wednesday, fire officials said.

Two other fires also burned in the state Wednesday.

A 15,400-acre fire in the Sacramento Mountains was 85 percent contained Wednesday, said John Peterson, fire information officer. The blaze was accidentally kindled April 30 by a man who committed suicide the next day because of his anguish over the fire, authorities said.

A third fire has scorched about 400 acres in the Chuska Mountains on a Navajo reservation was threatening the tribe's fish hatchery.

"We've had air tankers, helicopters, engines and handcrews on it and it doesn't want to seem to stop with the fuels so dry and the wind going up," said Calvin Becenti, fire information officer.

The fire flared from a campfire Monday, Becenti said. The person who started the campfire has been caught and charges were pending, Becenti said.

A fourth fire, burning on 340 acres in Colorado, has chased about 2,400 people from their homes but authorities expected it to be contained Wednesday evening.

Residents were allowed to return Tuesday night to the last of nine subdivisions in the area 25 miles west of Denver. The fire spread to within two miles of one cluster of homes.

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