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Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 3:20 a.m. MDT

2 dead, more than 200 homes charred in New Mexico wildfire

Firefighters battling a deadly wildfire in southern New Mexico took advantage of a brief break in the weather but gusty winds are expected to return Friday. The blaze claimed two lives and charred more than 200 residences. The fire has forced the evacuation of about 5,000 people in the mountain community of Ruidoso. That's where the remains of a couple were found near a burned home as they tried to flee. Area schools have been closed into next week and about 5,000 residences have been left without power since the wind-driven blaze broke out Tuesday.

Expanding drought leaves western US scrambling for water

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Federal water managers think they have a plan to keep the Rio Grande flowing this summer, but they conceded Thursday it all depends on the weather. The Rio Grande is a major water source for millions of people and thousands of square miles of farmland in Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Mexico. Farmers along the river are being encouraged to forego irrigating their lands this season. Climate experts say March marked the third straight month of below-average precipitation across the U.S., and areas of record dryness are expanding in the West. Irrigation districts from the Pacific Northwest to the Colorado River Basin are warning farmers to expect less this year.

Children's book illustrator scours Santa Fe after art theft

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — An accomplished illustrator of books for children including a work authored by Chelsea Clinton says she's searching for a packet of penguin illustrations that were taken from her unlocked car. Gianna Marino said Wednesday that she filed a police report after the pack of 20 illustrations disappeared overnight from the backseat of her car in Santa Fe, during an extended stay in the Southwestern hub for artists and authors. Marino said she scoured pawn shops, galleries and social media for the illustrations without finding a clue. The theft won't halt publication of the images in a new book about penguins and the loving bonds of family.

New Mexico GOP tells schools to reject social studies change

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico lawmaker is urging K-12 school leaders to reject new social studies standards approved by the state's education department. Republican House Whip Rod Montoya argues that the new standards are racially divisive. He says local school officials "are morally obligated to reject" the education standards. It's unclear what that would look like. School districts, not the state, ultimately choose which books to buy and how lessons are crafted. It's also rare that school districts defy the state. But when a school board did so last year by rejecting mask mandates, the education department simply dismissed all members.

In drought-stricken West, officials weigh emergency actions

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Federal officials say it may be necessary to reduce water deliveries to Colorado River users to prevent the shutdown of a huge dam on the Arizona-Utah border. Glen Canyon Dam supplies hydropower to some 5 million customers across the U.S. West. Officials had hoped snowmelt would buoy Lake Powell to ensure continued operation of the dam. But snow already is melting, and hotter-than-normal temperatures and prolonged drought are further shrinking the lake. The Interior Department has proposed holding back water in the lake to maintain power production. The agency is asking for feedback from the seven states that rely on the river by April 22.

New Mexico swears in Shannon Bacon as chief justice

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Supreme Court has a new chief justice who will oversee the administration of the judiciary and act as an advocate for state courts at the legislature on budgetary and other matters. Shannon Bacon was sworn in Wednesday to a two-year term as chief justice, a post that also involves coordination with the State Bar that sets professional standards for attorneys. Bacon was appointed by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in 2019 and won statewide election in 2020. She previously served nine years as a state district judge in the Albuquerque-based 2nd Judicial District.

New Mexico boosts its free college program, at least for now

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Flush with tax revenues and federal aid, many U.S. states are increasing support for free college programs. Experts say the expansion of a program in New Mexico could serve as a model, with flexible attendance requirements and generous financial aid. It covers tuition and fees for all students. Paired with federal grants, it can pay gas or rent for low-income students. The program allows adults to pursue a four-year degree, even if they haven't been in school for a while. The $75 million program is funded mostly with one-time federal aid, leaving supporters concerned about how long the state can sustain the program.

Texas keeping most truck inspections despite border gridlock

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says he will continue truck inspections that have gridlocked the U.S.-Mexico border for days. The two-term Republican governor said Wednesday he would not repeal his new policy at all bridges until there are more assurances of security. Abbott did lift inspections at one international bridge after announcing what he said was an agreement for more enhanced security with Nuevo Leon, Mexico. But the most dramatic backups of commercial trucks along Texas' 1,200-mile border have occurred at other bridges that do not share a border with Nuevo Leon.