Local News
2:47 pm
Tue June 4, 2013

Fire Prompts Closure Of State Highway

Credit Banalities via Flickr

  UPDATE 6/9 12:30p: A wildfire in northern New Mexico prompted a section of state highway to be closed after embers crossed a protection line and caused the blaze to grow.

The growth in the Thompson Ridge fire burning in the Valle Caldera National Preserve and the Santa Fe National Forest near Jemez Springs led to the closure of New Mexico Highway 4 from the junction at Route 126 to the junction at State Route 501.

The blaze had grown to more than 32 square miles by Sunday morning. It was 40 percent contained.

The fire was 1 ½ to 2 miles from the roadway.

No evacuation has been ordered for people living near the highway, though some homes elsewhere in the broader fire perimeter remain evacuated.

UPDATE 6/8 10a: More than 2,000 firefighters continue to battle two large northern New Mexico wildfires as smaller blazes pop up throughout the drought-stricken state.

Officials said late Friday that both the 28-square-miles Thompson Ridge Fire and the 15-square-mile Tres Lagunas Blaze remain 40 percent contained. Both continue to burn on opposite ends of the Santa Fe National Forest in northern New Mexico.

An evacuation order remains in effect for Thompson Ridge, Rancho de la Cueva and Elk Valley.

Meanwhile, several small fires were reportedly burning in the Gila National Forest — the site of state's largest wildfire in its history last year. Tiny wildfires were also reported southwest of Cook's Peak near Angel Fire and near Mt. Taylor outside of Grants.

UPDATE 6/7 5p: Crews are battling several new lightning caused wildfires. One is in the Manzano Mountains while five more are burning in the Gila National forest.

KRQE-TV reports air tankers are dropping slurry on the fire in the Manzanos.

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UPDATE 6/7 12p:  Only one of seven large air tanker planes that were contracted last month by the U.S. Forest Service to fight wildfires is doing so now that fire season has heated up.

The other six state-of-the-art planes still need to be certified to fly. The Forest Service says that process could take up to two more months.

The so-called "next-generation" turboprop and jet planes meet minimum standards for speed and slurry capacity. The only such plane flying right now belongs to 10 Tanker Air Carrier, a company in the process of moving its headquarters from Victorville, Calif., to Wyoming.

Ten Tanker's modified DC-10 passenger plane can drop up to 11,700 gallons of slurry at a time.

The plane has been fighting recent wildfires in California and New Mexico.

UPDATE 6/7 8am: The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved a grant that will help cover potential costs related to fighting the Tres Lagunas Fire in northern New Mexico.

State officials announced Thursday afternoon that the grant was approved. It will help pay for up to 75 percent of the cost of fighting the fire, including evacuations and shelter, traffic control and fire equipment.

The fire was sparked May 30 by a downed power line. It has charred about 15 square miles of the Santa Fe National Forest north of Pecos. It forced evacuations of dozens of summer homes and the closure of some camping areas.

Crews have been helped by high humidity and lower temperatures, but forecasters are warning that unfavorable weather is expected by the end of the week.

The fire is about 35 percent contained.

UPDATE 6/6 9a: The Thompson Ridge Fire near Jemez Springs in northern New Mexico continues to grow though higher humidity late Wednesday and early Thursday helped firefighters.

The fire is now estimated at 19 square miles, up from 16 square miles on Wednesday.

It's burning in the Valles Caldera National Preserve and part of the Santa Fe National Forest west of Santa Fe.

The fire started Friday from a downed power line. Containment is at 5 percent.

More than 800 personnel are fighting the fire. They're assisted by 10 tankers and helicopters.

Crews are burning out areas along the northern perimeter while improving lines on the east and south sides.

Fire managers say most of the fire activity anticipated Thursday will be in the fire area's northeastern interior as it reaches unburned fuel.

UPDATE 6/6 8a: Fire information officer Dan Ware says according to overnight infrared camera surveys of the Thompson Ridge Fire burning in the Jemez mountains has burned over 12,000 acres. 

Meanwhile, Mother Nature has provided some help to crews battling the Tres Lagunas fire north of Pecos in northern New Mexico's Santa Fe National Forest.

Fire management team spokeswoman Iris Estes says a storm that passed through the area late Wednesday didn't drop much rain on the fire but increased humidity in the area.

Estes says the resulting dampness means a concern for Thursday is preventing injury to firefighters working on steep slopes.

The fire grew by about 100 acres Wednesday but is still at roughly 15 square miles. Containment is estimated at 25 percent.

The fire started May 30 because of a downed power line.

Firefighters are trying to protect cabins and other structures as well as keep the fire away from watersheds for Santa Fe and Las Vegas.

UPDATE 6/5 6p: Gov. Susana Martinez has welcomed the first of three special teams from other western states that will be helping firefighters respond to blazes around New Mexico.

The first team arrived Wednesday afternoon from Wyoming. The crew and their engines will be stationed in northeastern New Mexico for at least two weeks.

The other two teams — one from North Dakota and another from Oregon — will arrive Thursday. They will be stationed in Rio Rancho and Socorro.

Martinez says fire danger around the state is extreme and the mission of the strike teams will be to tackle any new fires to ensure they don't grow.

In all, the three teams include 38 crew members and 13 engines.

During a stop in Rio Rancho, Martinez met each of the members of the Wyoming team and thanked them for coming to New Mexico.

UPDATE 6/5, 7a: Fire crews battling the Thompson Ridge fire near Jemez Springs in northern New Mexico are being aided by a large air tanker converted from a DC10 jumbo jet.

The fire has burned 11.5 square miles after doubling in size Tuesday. Containment is at 5 percent.

The fire management team says the so-called "very large air tanker" was used Monday to pretreat areas near buildings and to strengthen fire line on Redondo Peak.

The giant tanker is among eight aircraft being used against the fire, which is being fought by 557 people. Those include 14 ground crews and the crews of 29 engines.

The fire is burning in a steep and rugged wooded area of the Santa Fe National Forest.

It started Friday.

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Areas east of the Tres Lagunas fire north of Pecos still burning in northern New Mexico can expect an increase in smoke in the next few days.

Firefighters plan to burn an area to clear unburned fuel, and the fire management team says that will increase smoke in the early afternoons and early evenings along the fire's east side.

The fire increased to 14 square miles as of Monday night, up from nearly 13.5 square miles at the start of the day.

Crews at last report had lines around 15 percent of its perimeter.

They are focusing on protecting watersheds for Santa Fe and Las Vegas and on protecting homes in the area.

Aircraft dropped fire retardant on Monday.

The fire started Thursday due to a downed power line.