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New Mexico wildfire forces closure of Gila Cliff Dwellings

June 3, 2021 GMT

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument will close this weekend while crews continue efforts to contain a wildfire in the Gila National Forest.

The National Park Service said Thursday that the Cliff Dwellings will shut down beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday and until further notice.

The lightning-caused blaze, which was first reported May 20, has burned roughly 60 square miles (155 square kilometers).

Firefighters will conduct burn-out operations west of the Cliff Dwellings on the so-called Johnson Fire. The hope is to reinforce fire lines and keep the blaze from getting to the Cliff Dwellings or the community of Gila Hot Springs.

Previously, fire officials were allowing controlled burning while monitoring any potential threat to the Cliff Dwellings, a treasured pre-Colombian settlement preserved in rock.

Fire officials say they will allow burning that is healthy for forests, but are monitoring the threat the Johnson Fire may pose to the nearby Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, a treasured pre-Colombian settlement preserved in rock.

Trails into the Gila closed Tuesday to protect public safety.

Fire season in New Mexico is on track to be even hotter and drier than usual, with lower flow in many of its rivers.