Smoke billows from the wildfire that high winds fueled near the Tres Lagunas community north of Pecos Thursday afternoon.(Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)
Bobb Barnes of the Pecos Canyon Fire Department blocks N.M. 63 near the wildfire about 10 miles north of Pecos on Thursday. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)
A fire that broke out Thursday afternoon in Pecos Canyon had forced evacuations near an upscale cabin and vacation home development about 10 miles north of the village of Pecos. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)
Timelapse video of the Tres Lagunas smoke plume over two hours this afternoon by Michael Zeiler of Santa Fe.
Gov. Susana Maratinez said at a town hall meeting in Pecos tonight that the Tres Lagunas fire has grown to 2,500 acres, up 500 acres from estimates from just a few hours earlier.
5:58 p.m. — Gov. Susana Martinez declared San Miguel County as being in a state of emergency due to the Tres Lagunas Fire near Pecos.
The declaration makes emergency funding available to assist with the response in the coming days.
5:28 p.m. — The Tres Lagunas Fire has grown to 2,000 acres, and voluntary evacuation have been issued for the Cow Creek area.
Evacuees can go to the Pecos High School gymnasium and evacuees with animals and livestock can head to the San Miguel Sheriff’s Posse — Pecos Rodeo Grounds.
Around 350 personnel are fighting the fire. Fire activity increased today due to hot temperatures and dry conditions. Spread potential is high.
Keep with ABQJournal.com for updates.
3:59 p.m. — The New Mexico Environment Department has issued a smoke advisory for the Pecos Canyon due to the Tres Lagunas Fire, and it cautions smoke could cause respiratory problems through the weekend for residents of Santa Fe and Albuquerque.
The department also offered a tip for residents to determine their air quality in lieu of monitoring equipment.
If visibility is:
- 10 miles and up, the air quality is good
- six to nine miles, air quality is moderate
- three to five miles, air quality is unhealthy for sensitive people
- one and a half to two and a half miles, air quality is unhealthy
- one to one and a quarter miles, air quality is very unhealthy
- and three quarters of a mile or less, air quality is hazardous.
Should visibility reach three to five miles or worse, the department advises, those with potential health risks from the smoke should evacuate the area or stay with friends and/or family who have a high-efficiency particulate air filter on their air conditioner.
They should also call 911 if they experience severe shortness of breath, chest pain, decreased mental function or other life-threatening conditions.
New Mexico State Forestry officials report that the Tres Lagunas fire has spread to 1,000 acres, doubling in size since the last official update. The fire is 5 percent contained.
The fire is threatening several communities along Highway 63. The road from El Macho Church north towards Jack’s Creek Campgrounds has been closed. Residents in that area have been asked to evacuate.
Officials said the likelihood of the fire spreading is high due to a combination of high winds, low humidity and increasing air temperatures.
Officials say residents in 150 homes north of Macho Creek have now been asked to evacuate.
Two hundred firefighters are battling the blaze or are on the way, with support from two helicopters and one air tanker.
No injuries have been reported.
— The following article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal
by T.S Last and Mark Oswald / Journal
A fire broke out in Pecos Canyon on Thursday afternoon and exploded to quickly burn through more than 500 acres about 10 miles north of the village of Pecos, threatening structures, closing a highway and forcing evacuations.
The fire, started by a downed power line amid heavy winds, was shooting huge flames and giant plumes of smoke into the air about a mile west of Tres Lagunas, an upscale community of cabins and vacation homes along N.M. 63 and the Pecos River.
There were reports of people being sheltered in a day-use area along the river and efforts to move a group of teens who had been staying at the Panchuela Campground, well north of the fire zone.
In the afternoon, evacuations were from areas north of the fire, but around 8 p.m. authorities said people from south of the fire zone were also being told to leave. N.M. 63, the only highway through the canyon, was closed at the fire scene.
On the north side of the fire, evacuees were being taken to or told to go north to Cowles Pond, at the north end of the canyon and several miles from the fire, a U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman said. It was unclear if any provision had been made to house evacuees. The canyon is dotted with cabins, vacation homes and recreational ranches and camps.
A combination of small planes, helicopters and hand crews were sent to attack the blaze, which started around 3 p.m. Iris Estes, a spokeswoman for the Santa Fe National Forest, said the wind kept the aircraft grounded Thursday but large air tankers were staging in Santa Fe and Albuquerque to work on the fire today.
“The challenges are the wind, dry conditions and steep terrain,” Estes said. About 150 firefighters were being mobilized to fight the fire Thursday night.
In the afternoon, firefighters on the scene said the blaze ignited along N.M. 63 when a power line fell, and that was confirmed Thursday night by the Forest Service.
The high winds continued into the evening. At 5 p.m., the state Forestry Division pegged the wind speed at 24 mph and gusts that high were still being reported at 9 p.m.
There was no containment of the fire Thursday night as it burned toward the north, but authorities said there were no reports of any structures being burned.
“Hopefully tomorrow, the winds wont be as bad and we can get a handle on it,” Estes said.
Bob Ingersoll, a captain with Pecos Canyon Fire and Rescue, said near the scene Thursday afternoon that the fire started by the road after a power line got caught in trees. He said the blaze raced up the canyon. “The wind shifted and we had to get out of there,” he said.
His son, Josh Ingersoll, said the fire was probably only about 3 acres when firefighters first arrived. But when high winds hit the blaze, it jumped the road and started crowning in the treetops of ponderosa pine.
“It was just so windy, it got out of control,” he said, forcing crews to retreat.
“A little later we would have been toast,” he added.
“It sounded like a locomotive,” said Ronnie Armijo, another Pecos firefighter.
Tracy Bennett, ranch manager of the nearby Hidden Valley Ranch, which has time-share units and vacation homes, said the power went out about 3:15 p.m. He said he called the local electrical co-op which told him about the fire. Bennett said he looked outside, saw the smoke and thought, “It’s not a little one.”
Bennett advised some guests they should spend the night in town.
The fire is the first large-scale blaze of 2013 for northern New Mexico, as much of the state faces another year of drought and poor fire conditions.