BELEN – A haze of smoke still hung over the Rio Grande bosque near Belen on Friday after a wildfire ravaged 150 acres on both sides of the river.
Firefighters from across the county, as well as those from multiple state agencies and neighboring counties were still working Friday evening to contain a bosque fire that started Thursday afternoon.
The named Ironworks Fire, according to the website nmfireinfo.com just before 10 a.m. Friday, still posed a threat to 120 structures.
Crews were still working on several hot spots Friday, and helicopters were dumping water on those areas as well.
Incident commander Steven Griego, with New Mexico State Forestry, said extremely high winds drove the fire, which started on the west side of the Rio Grande, near Monte Vista Road in Belen, into the bosque and across the river.
“The fire jumped the river (to the east) in multiple places and pushed it into the subdivision,” Griego said.
The fire swept through fields east of the river, running north of the Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area, and was stopped near N.M. 47. The fire did not cross the highway.
“It was pretty active all (Thursday) night long; it was a good fight,” Griego said. “We got a lot of good work done while the heat of the day was gone. We worked on establishing and building up containment lines, especially near structures. Today we are mopping up and securing.”
Griego said that officially the fire remained at zero percent contained but there was containment within the estimated 150 acres that burned.
Because of expected high winds Friday afternoon, “We may well be here through tonight again,” he said.
According to State Forestry’s evening update, at least two homes, seven outbuildings — structures such as a shed — and six recreational vehicles have burned.
The cause of the fire is under investigation, Valencia County Fire Chief Brian Culp said.
Griego said no residents were injured in the fire, but two firefighters sustained minor injuries.
Those who have been evacuated from their homes were asked to wait until they are contacted to return, Griego said.
“Depending on the winds … we will let them know as soon as possible when they can return,” he said.
The American Red Cross established an emergency shelter at the Del Rio Senior Center, 351 Rio Communities Blvd., in Rio Communities.
Red Cross disaster program specialist Sandra Darling-Roberts said four residents stayed at the shelter Thursday night, and about 20 volunteer firefighters used the center for respite during the night.
She said the shelter has an abundance of food and water and urged community members who would like to donate food, water, clothing, toiletries or other items to help those who lost their homes to the fire or have been displaced to work directly with local groups.