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Rio Rancho fire burns 2,100 rural acres

Fire crews Sunday evening were fighting a fast-moving 2,100-acre blaze in a rural portion of northwest Rio Rancho, according to the Sandoval County fire chief.

Chief James Maxon said the Encino Fire broke out around 12:45 p.m. Sunday. The fire burned quickly through brush west of the Santa Ana Star Center. Maxon said Sunday evening that no structures or residents were threatened, even though at one point the fire was a few miles from some neighborhoods.

By 8 p.m. around 100 people from nearby fire departments and the state Forestry Division were working to get a perimeter around the fire. The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department’s helicopter was also being used to fight the fire.

Maxon said the cause of the fire is not clear, but it is the second fire in the area within the past three weeks. On Friday the department issued a ban on open burning in unincorporated portions of Sandoval County prompted by high temperatures and dry conditions.

The Encino Fire broke out just as residents displaced by the Cajete Fire in the Jemez Mountains were returning home. Officials said Sunday that fire was 80 percent contained.

N.M. 4, the road through Jemez Springs into the Jemez Mountains, reopened Sunday, though the Forest Service warned that fire equipment would be using the roadway and smoke could reduce visibility.

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Since its start Thursday afternoon, the Cajete Fire has charred 1,400 acres of National Forest land, but it saw minimal growth overnight Saturday. On Sunday, the 424 people still on scene were monitoring existing containment line and working to establish a new containment line on the fire’s southern edge. Efforts to fight the human-caused fire have to date cost $1.4 million, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

Forest Service officials said an abandoned campfire is to blame for the fire. On Saturday the Santa Fe National Forest implemented Stage 1 fire restrictions in the area. Stage 1 rules prohibit, among other activities, campfires and smoking outside of undeveloped campsites.

Meanwhile, 246 people on Sunday were fighting the Bonita Wildfire, which continued to burn near El Rito, according to the Forest Service. The lightning-caused fire that broke out June 3 has blackened 5,700 acres and on Sunday was 25 percent contained. Officials expect that fire, which is burning near Tres Piedras, to be fully contained by July 15. The Bonita Fire has so far cost $1.2 million.

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