Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument closes due to fire

SILVER CITY, N.M. (AP) — The Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument in southwestern New Mexico is closed to the public while crews conduct a burnout operation to reduce the risk of a wildfire burning toward the monument and the nearby community of Gila Hot Springs.

Officials said the closure of the monument located 32 miles (51 kilometers) north of Silver City took effect Saturday and will continue until further notice.

Burnout operations are a fire suppression technique in which fire is set along the inside edge of a control line or natural barrier to consume unburned fuel between a wildfire and the control line.

As of Friday a wildfire in the area had burned over 59 square miles (154 square kilometers) of timber and tall grass in the Gila Wilderness on the Gila National Forest.

Lightning started the fire May 20 about 11 miles (17.7 kilometers) west of the monument.