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Cajete Fire reaches 1,315 acres; containment at 55%

SANTA FE – An abandoned campfire caused the now 1,315-acre Cajete Fire in the Jemez Mountains, according to the Forest Service, and fire restrictions will remain in place for the foreseeable future to prevent more fires.

Though the fire nearly doubled in size since Friday morning, the blaze was 55 percent contained and there was minimal growth Saturday, the Forest Service said in an evening news release. Fire retardant held the southeast perimeter of the blaze in place and crews built a fire line along the southern perimeter. Green grasses where trees are more widely spaced stopped the fire from spreading.

Officials said the fire is progressing toward an aspen grove, which will curtail fire activity because of higher moisture in the area, the Forest Service’s latest update said.

There were 323 personnel, nine engines, one dozer, three water tenders and four helicopters involved in fighting the fire Saturday. Air operations were halted for one-and-a-half hours in the afternoon when an unauthorized drone flew into the area.

The Forest Service implemented Stage 1 fire restrictions starting this weekend within the Jemez Ranger District and areas of the Cuba Ranger District of the Santa Fe National Forest.

Santa Fe National Forest Supervisor James Melonas said Friday the Stage 1 rules prohibit abandoning campfires and having campfires in any undeveloped site, smoking outside or in undeveloped campsite areas. As always, fireworks are not allowed.

“We’re making sure we have all our focus on this fire, (and preventing) any other fires from starting,” Melonas said.

The news release said the restrictions will be in effect until Dec. 31 or until Santa Fe National Forest retracts the order.

Residents who have homes near the fire — burning near the south border of the Valles Caldera National Preserve, between Los Alamos and Jemez Springs — were able to get more information from Forest Service officials at a community meeting Saturday evening at the evacuee center at Jemez Mountain Baptist Church in La Cueva. Affected residents who need to access their property can contact the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office to arrange an escort.

Containment efforts are expected to stop additional “northward progression” toward the Valles Caldera preserve, the Forest Service said. The fire area runs along the East Fork of the Jemez River and is to the west of the burn scars from the 2011 Las Conchas Fire and the 2013 Thompson Ridge Fire.

No additional neighborhoods have been evacuated since Ruby Holt Plat, Los Griegos and Sierra de Los Pinos on Thursday and no structures or homes have been destroyed since the fire began.