An eye-stinging, throat-burning haze of smoke spewing from a gigantic wildfire in eastern Arizona is beginning to stretch as far east as central New Mexico, prompting health officials to warn residents as far away as Albuquerque about potential respiratory hazards. The 672-square-mile blaze was no longer just an Arizona problem as firefighters moved to counter spot fires sprouting up across the state line and lighting their own fires to beat it back. The forest fire remained largely uncontained and officials worried that the return of gusty southwesterly winds during the afternoon could once again threaten small mountain communities that had been saved just days ago.
Levels of tiny, sooty particles from the smoke in eastern Arizona were nearly 20 times the federal health standard today. The good news was that was down from roughly 40 times higher a day earlier, but it was all at the mercy of the ever-changing winds. Tomorrow could get even worse, warned Arizona's environmental department. "It's looking very unsettled, and they're predicting winds out of the southeast to the northeast and heavy impact along Interstate 40," said a spokesman. "It's very problematic for both states." (Read more Arizona wildfires stories.)