Diego Fire grows more than 3,400 acres; health alert issued
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Albuquerque’s environmental health department has issued a health alert due to anticipated levels of smoke in the air from the Diego Fire in the Jemez Mountains.
The alert is in effect until 2 p.m. today.
A news release from the environmental health department, sent last night, said smoke traveling from the Jemez Mountains through Santa Fe would impact the Albuquerque overnight, potentially triggering asthma or other respiratory disease. Other sensitive groups like those with heart disease, those over age 65, young children and pregnant women should avoid outdoor activities, the release said.
The Diego Fire, burning in the Jemez Mountains near Coyote, grew to an estimated 1,000 acres by Monday afternoon, resulting in evacuations of rural areas southwest of the village.
Members of the firefighting team were knocking on doors urging residents to leave homes west of Coyote Canyon and Coyote Creek, including the Jaroso area, and the Dunlap Spring and West Dunlap Spring areas south of Forest Road 315.
“It might be summer cabins or permanent homes or barns, but all of those communities have structures,” said Forest Service fire information officer Karen Takai.
An evacuation center was being established at the rodeo grounds near Abiquiu at U.S. 84 and N.M. 554 for anyone needing help.
Several cabins are believed to be on private land that the fire has reached, but it’s unclear whether they are threatened, said another fire information officer, Dolores Maese. The area has small sections of private land surrounded by the Santa Fe National Forest.
An infrared mapping flight scheduled for late Monday was expected to provide a more precise figure on the acreage the fire has consumed, Maese said.
A public meeting to inform area residents about the fire was scheduled for Monday night at the Coyote Elementary School gym. Takai urged residents in the area to make preparations to leave if necessary.
The fire, which is believed to have been started by lightning on national forest land on June 15, was not reported until June 25, said Maese. The fire grew from 107 acres to 750 acres on Sunday amid hot temperatures and significant winds, according to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The fire is burning mixed conifer and aspen at an elevation of about 9,500 feet.
Smoke from the fire was visible Sunday and Monday from Interstate 25 between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and residents reported the smell of smoke in Santa Fe as the plume drifted north.
Gusty winds were fueling the fire again Monday, said Maese. “They (firefighters) are being very vigilant about the weather and changes in the weather,” she said.
A New Mexico multiagency Type 3 fire management team was expected take control of the fire at 6 p.m. Monday. The Type 3 group brings more resources to bear on the blaze, she said.
About 200 people were involved in fighting the blaze Monday, supported by about six air tankers and a couple of helicopters. The fire has closed several roads, including at the intersections of Forest Roads 103 and 93, north of the Rio Puerco Campground. On the south side of the fire, public access is closed at the intersections of Forest Roads 103/316 and 103/315.
Firefighters from around the state, including additional Hotshot crews, arrived in the area Sunday night.
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