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Residents wary as fire burns near northeast New Mexico town

LAS VEGAS, N.M. (AP) — Residents of the small northeast New Mexico town of Las Vegas have been watching aircraft disappear into a giant plume of smoke to fight a growing wildfire that has burned hundreds of square miles, destroyed about 170 homes and threatens more destruction. Officials on Tuesday predicted winds will return this weekend to whip again through the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Also Tuesday, New Mexico's Democratic governor said she's seeking a federal disaster declaration for the largest blaze burning in the U.S. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said 15,500 homes are evacuated while the blaze burns near towns dotting mountainsides, towering ponderosa pine forests and meadows. She said the number of homes destroyed likely will increase.

New Mexico governor seeking US disaster status for wildfire

LAS VEGAS, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is asking President Joe Biden to declare a disaster as firefighters scramble to clear brush, build fire lines and spray water to keep the largest blaze burning in the U.S. from destroying more homes. The governor signed a request for a presidential disaster declaration Tuesday, while fire managers predicted the battle to protect towns in the state's northeast pine forests and mountains would become more intense later in the week. The fire is the result of two blazes that merged, one of which was a prescribed fire that jumped containment lines. About 15,500 homes have been evacuated and around 170 homes have been destroyed, but officials expect that number to grow.

US to hold back Lake Powell water to protect hydropower

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Federal water officials have announced they'll keep hundreds of billions of gallons of Colorado River water inside Lake Powell instead of letting it flow downstream to southwestern states and Mexico. U.S. Assistant Secretary of Water and Science Tanya Trujillo said Tuesday the move will allow the Glen Canyon Dam to continue producing hydropower while officials strategize how to operate the dam with a lower water elevation. The decision won't have any immediate impacts on the amount of water allocated for the region's cities and its farm. But it reflects the compounding challenges facing the region, where roughly 40 million people and a $5 billion-a-year agricultural industry rely on the Colorado River.

Change trains: Mexico favors N. Mexico over Texas

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The Mexican government is snubbing Texas and moving a proposed border rail link to New Mexico, after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott backed up border crossings with state truck inspections in April. Mexican diplomats met Tuesday with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and touted a rail line linking Mexican seaports on the Pacific with the San Jeronimo-Santa Teresa crossing in New Mexico. Mexican officials had considered a route through Texas, but in recent days they've said they can no longer rely on the state. Abbott had required all commercial trucks from Mexico to undergo extra inspections, tying up traffic and causing millions in losses.

Wildfire closes in, New Mexico residents prepare to flee

LAS VEGAS, N.M. (AP) — Wind-whipped flames are marching across more of New Mexico's tinder-dry mountainsides, forcing the evacuation of area residents and dozens of patients from the state's psychiatric hospital as firefighters scramble to keep new wildfires from growing. The big blaze burning near the community of Las Vegas has charred more than 217 square miles. Residents in neighborhoods on the edge of Las Vegas were told to be ready to leave their homes. It's the biggest wildfire in the U.S. and is moving quickly through groves of ponderosa pine because of hot, dry and windy conditions that make for extreme wildfire danger. Forecasters are warning of extreme fire danger across New Mexico and in western Texas.

Albuquerque sees 3 different homicides over the weekend

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Authorities in Albuquerque are dealing with three difference homicide scenes that occurred over the weekend. Albuquerque police say on Sunday officers responded to a single-vehicle car crash. One person died at a hospital. But the victim had suffered a gunshot wound. Earlier in the day around 4 a.m., a woman asked a neighbor to call police after she claimed to have stabbed her boyfriend. Officers found a man dead with wounds consistent with a stabbing. The woman was taken to the hospital for injuries and has not been arrested. Then on Saturday night, police found two people shot to death inside a home. There have been no arrests.

Arizona wildfire forces fast decision: Fight or flee flames?

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Ferocious winds that sent what was a small wildfire racing toward homes on the outskirts of a northern Arizona city presented a dilemma. Most residents in the "Girls Ranch" neighborhood north of Flagstaff, Arizona, fled the flames. One couple stood their ground. Another raced to save animals on neighbors' properties. Two homes in the close-knit neighborhood were among 30 in the area that were destroyed. The wildfire left a mosaic of charred land before it was almost fully contained this weekend. The blaze is one of many this spring that have forced panicked residents to make life-or-death, fight-or-flee decisions as wildfire season heats up in the U.S. West.

Man accused of impersonating Albuquerque policeman faces DWI

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Authorities say a man accused of impersonating an Albuquerque police officer last month also is facing a DWI charge. Raul Martinez had his initial court appearance Saturday. Albuquerque TV station KOB reports that two different videos show Martinez announcing himself as a city police officer at a gas station and a neighborhood. According to a criminal complaint, three women at the gas station said Martinez appeared to be drunk and was slurring his words. A judge decided Martinez could be released from jail on his own recognizance on the impersonation case, but he was held for a March 20 DWI charge that violated conditions of his release. It was unclear Sunday if Martinez has a lawyer who can speak on his behalf about the two cases.