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N.M. fire blamed on fireplace ashes

Fireplace ashes dumped in a back yard sparked a grass and timber wildfire that burned 28 homes in an affluent neighborhood in the mountains of southern New Mexico, authorities said Sunday.

Firefighters said winds died down Sunday and that the fire was 60 percent contained.

"Sometime tomorrow, we will allow people back into their homes," said fire information officer James Mason.

At least five fires were still burning in the area Sunday. One fire spread from an Indian reservation and burned one home, and authorities were asking residents near the town of Hondo to evacuate as a precaution. Earlier, state police had said 200 people were told to leave.

No one has been injured in the fires. Wind gusts of up to 50 mph had pushed the flames, but the winds died down Sunday.

Gov. Gary Johnson, speaking in Ruidoso, declared a state disaster Sunday. He said the 800-acre fire that had burned homes near Alto was caused by a resident who dumped the ashes Saturday because he thought they were cold.

The Lincoln County assessor's office pegged the property damage from the Kokopelli Fire at $5.2-million in assessed valuation. Actual value would be significantly more.

More than 200 firefighters were battling the flames near Alto with the help of air tankers and helicopters, but the winds made flying difficult, said Jerome MacDonald, chief for firefighting crews of the Southwest Area Incident Management Team.

The fire about 15 miles from Hondo spread from the Mescalero Apache reservation across more than 10,000 acres, the state Office of Emergency Services said.

Report: Maggots found in comatose patients' noses

KANSAS CITY, Mo. _ Maggots were born in the noses of two comatose patients four years ago at a city Veteran's Administration hospital infested by mice and flies, according to a medical journal report released today.

The story in the Archives of Internal Medicine said in 1998 mice would sometimes dash over the feet of employees in the hospital director's suite.

Hospital officials said the hospital no longer has any cleanliness problems. It scored 99 out of 100 when it was inspected by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospital Organizations in October, said Barbara Shatto, the hospital's quality manager.

The infestation started with a housecleaning oversight, according to the article.

The mice moved in after the cafeteria and food storage areas were dropped from a cleaning list, said Dr. Stephen Klotz, then the hospital's chief of infectious disease. Some areas weren't cleaned for at least a year, the article said.

The maggots were removed from the patients' nostrils, and neither patient was harmed.