An electric distribution problem early Wednesday morning knocked out power to about 850 homes in the Alto area and sparked a small fire.

The incident happened about 1 a.m. along Eagle Creek Canyon Road. Clint Gardner, Otero County Electric Cooperative's manager of member services, said power was out for about 1 1/2 hours. A faulty circuit breaker was determined to have been the problem.

"When we have a fault on the line it (breaker) will kick out the line so it doesn't burn something down," Gardner said. "In this case the breaker actually had something wrong with it internally and that's what caused it to blow up and caused the fire."

The resulting fire burned about a tenth of an acre, said Lincoln County Office of Emergency Services Director Travis Atwell. The Bonito Volunteer Fire Department responded to extinguish the flames.

"Actually the fire wasn't doing much," Atwell said. "It was just mainly watching the (electrical) arching."