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City forest hit by fire believed set by squatters

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s largest big-city forest park has been devastated by a fire that officials say was set by squatters seeking to take over land and has been worsened by armed gangs trying to scare off firefighting brigades.

The huge forest fire at the Bosque de la Primavera on the edge of the western city of Guadalajara has consumed 18,500 acres, sending plumes of smoke and ash into the city and forcing dozens of schools to close.

The chief firefighting official for the western state of Jalisco said squatters at camps along the park’s boundaries set the fire.

Alvaro Garcia Chavez said Wednesday that two firefighting teams encountered armed gangs in the woods over the weekend and were forced to temporarily withdraw. They later returned under police guard.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports