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UPDATED: Jemez fire over 12,000 acres; Tres Lagunas 24% contained

Historic ranch buildings at Valles Caldera National Preserve threatened by the Thompson Ridge Fire, photographed on Wednesday June 5, 2013. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)
Historic ranch buildings at Valles Caldera National Preserve threatened by the Thompson Ridge Fire, photographed on Wednesday June 5, 2013. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)
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Images from the Tres Lagunas Fire

Images from the Thompson Ridge Fire

 


Updates

2:06 p.m.

Fire officials say today the Thompson Ridge Fire has surpassed 12,000 acres. The heaviest fire activity today is expected in the north and northeast sections of the fire.

Crews were able to conduct some burnout operations overnight and continue to make progress establishing or improving fire lines on the east and south flanks.


Noon:

The Tres Lagunas Fire burning north of Pecos is now 24 percent contained, up from 15 percent on Wednesday, fire managers said this morning.

The fire has now burned about 9,600 acres, and 931 firefighting personnel continue to work on the blaze.

Today, crews are expected to take advantage of Wednesday’s wet weather and continue to construct direct firelines and dozer lines to some of the most active fire areas, including the northwest corner of Holy Ghost Canyon. Direct firelines will also be constructed around spot fires in the southeast part of the burn west of Forest Rd. 92, according to the fire team’s morning update. Burnout operations were not conducted around the spot fires due to weather conditions.

The road block on N.M. 63 has been moved further north in Pecos Canyon to the Windy Bridge Day Use area at mile marker 15.5. Individuals residing south of Windy Bridge have been allowed to return back to their homes. But due to heavy fire vehicle traffic, residents are asked to avoid driving on the highway before 8 a.m. and after 5 p.m. Residents are urged to drive slowly and use caution. Areas north of Windy Bridge remain under evacuation. Forest Road 92 two miles north of the Bull Creek road also remains closed.

The Mora-San Miguel Electric Co-op and Century Link personnel will be escorted into the fire area by fire management personnel to assess any possible damage to  facilities Рa co-op power line that fell in high wind started the fire Рand begin to make any necessary repairs.

For more information about the restoration of power, residents can contact the Mora-San Miguel Electric Coop at 575-387-2205.


9:24 a.m.

The Thompson Ridge Fire had burned 10,400 acres but was still just 5 percent contained, according to the latest figures released at 10 p.m. Wednesday, New Mexico Forestry said in its latest update.

The fire was very active Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, but in spite of the extreme fire behavior, buildings of the Valles Caldera Headquarters Historic District were preserved and remained within containment lines, fire officials said.

The Tres Lagunas Fire had burned 9,441 acres as of 10 p.m. Wednesday, and containment had jumped from 15 percent earlier in the day, up to 24 percent by Wednesday night, New Mexico Forestry officials reported.


– The following story appeared on page A1 of the June 6, 2013 edition of the Albuquerque Journal

Fire burns Valles Caldera

by T.S. Last and Patrick Lohmann/Journal Staff Writers

Though not a lot of rain fell Wednesday on the Tres Lagunas Fire burning north of Pecos, the weather system that moved over the Santa Fe National Forest during the afternoon was beneficial to firefighting efforts there and on the Thompson Ridge Fire west of Los Alamos.

“We didn’t get as much rain as we hoped,” said Dale Thompson, a fire spokesman. “But even if it didn’t rain, the increased humidity and moisture would help the fire behavior. The flames wouldn’t grow as high and the fire would move a lot slower.”

Thompson said no more than 0.08 inches of rain fell on the Tres Lagunas blaze, which had consumed 9,200 acres by Wednesday morning. It started from a downed power line a week ago.

As of Wednesday evening, the fire was reported to be 15 percent contained.

To the west, the Thompson Ridge Fire continued churning through the forested areas of the Valles Caldera Preserve west of Los Alamos.

The fire has charred about 9,400 acres after doubling in size Tuesday, burning to the edge of the area’s signature Valle Grande meadow. That fire is reported to be 5 percent contained.

Hopes of storms over that area fizzled by the afternoon, depriving firefighters of an opportunity to begin controlled burns on the north and west sides of the fire. Crews had planned to drop ping-pong-ball-sized fire starters from helicopters to try to ignite low-intensity fires, which could head off the fast-moving fire. Still, the increased humidity helped mitigate the fire activity.

Firefighters assigned to the Thompson Ridge also got help from a DC-10 jumbo jet. The air tanker was dropping more than 11,000 gallons of slurry Wednesday along the edge of the fire closest to the historic district of the Valles Caldera National Preserve. The area includes the ranch headquarters, guest houses, other old cabins and barns.

“There was a lot of excitement overnight and into the wee hours because the fire made a strong run right up to the edge of ranch headquarters,” fire information officer Dana Howlett said. “Fortunately, there had been a lot of prep work to protect the structures. We’re very happy to report that the whole district is in very good shape.”

Holy Ghost

Firefighters on the Tres Lagunas Fire jumped on several spot fires in and near Holy Ghost Canyon, one of which burned an additional 250 acres.

The Holy Ghost area is considered a priority because of the 26 summer homes there. A sprinkler system drawing creek water has been operating continuously for several days in an effort to protect the structures, along with aircraft and ground crews.

No structures have been destroyed and just one minor injury to a firefighter has been reported.

Firefighters on Tres Lagunas also had hoped to conduct a planned burnout, but had to postpone it because of gusty winds.

“This burnout operation will be key to clearing up unburned fuel in that area and providing more protection for the Gallinas watershed, keeping the fire spread west of Forest Road 92,” according to the fire update.

There is concern that the fire could spread to the Gallinas watershed, the source of 90 percent of the city of Las Vegas’ water supply.

An additional 150 people were added to the effort to bring the Tres Lagunas Fire under control, bringing the total to 757.

New fire teams

Also Wednesday, Gov. Susana Martinez announced the arrival of three out-of-state strike teams to help if new fires break out. The teams will be positioned in Rio Rancho, Socorro and Las Vegas.

“They will be available to go anywhere,” said Dan Ware, spokesman for the New Mexico State Forestry division. “Because we have a lot of resources dedicated to the two fires, having these strike teams will really be a benefit.”

A crew from Wyoming was to arrive Wednesday, while teams from North Dakota and Oregon will be in New Mexico by today. In all, 38 crew members and 13 engines make up the teams.

Ware said State Forestry also boosted the number of its seasonal firefighters this year, adding nearly 50 to the 250 that are hired during a typical season.

Despite the dry conditions, Ware said New Mexico has had fewer fires so far this season. Nationally, fewer than 574 square miles have burned. That’s less than half the amount burned by this same time last year.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.

 

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