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Wildfires Leave 1,000 Homeless In Southwest Paradise Lost For New Mexico Community

Tue., May 7, 1996

Firefighters fought on land and by air Monday to thwart a fast-moving wildfire that burned 7,500 acres, destroyed more than two dozen buildings and forced 1,000 people to flee.

Much of the damage struck a non-denominational spiritual community in La Lama, an unincorporated village of 75 about 20 miles north of Taos in northern New Mexico.

“It was horrific,” said Leslie Maclean, coordinator for the Lama Foundation. “There were little bonfires everywhere. The trees were blackened. A lot of trees had gone.”

Gov. Gary Johnson has declared a state of emergency throughout fire-plagued New Mexico, where firefighters just finished containing the 16,683-acre Dome Fire outside Los Alamos National Laboratory last week.

“Any sort of activity that might start a fire has got to be stopped,” Johnson said Monday.

On Sunday, the fire burned down 27 buildings in La Lama, including a half dozen homes, authorities said. The community had been evacuated before the fire struck. No injuries were reported, but 18 of the village’s families lost their homes.

Maclean said most of the group had little or nothing left after the fire destroyed their mountain paradise.

“We’re kind of alternating today between ‘None of this matters’ and ‘Oh, my God, what happened to my Walkman?”’ she said.

The fire also burned an unknown number of acres of the Carson National Forest, including in the ColumbineHondo Wilderness Study Area, high alpine country that is very popular with hikers and horseback riders, said Carson spokesman Gary Schiff.

The blaze was ignited Sunday by a trash fire in San Cristobal, then raced northward to La Lama, forcing the evacuation of 1,000 residents there and in the communities of Questa and Red River to the northeast.


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