SANTA FE, N.M. — (This story has been updated to reflect that the Maton Fires are now 100% contained.)
SANTA FE – Eighteen small fires discovered burning near each other in the Carson National Forest last week were human caused, according to a forest spokeswoman.
The U.S. Forest Service is still investigating the exact cause of the fires, which collectively are being referred to as the Maton Fires and had burned 105 acres as of Saturday. The Forest Service reported that the fires were rendered 100% contained on Monday and that fire crews are continuing to monitor the area.
A soaking rain on Friday helped firefighting crews contain the fires, according to the Saturday news release. About 45 firefighters initially responded to the fires last week.
Denise Ottaviano, spokeswoman for the Carson forest, said on Monday it may take some time to determine the cause of the fires. Investigators found 18 points of ignition and it will take time to determine the cause for each one.
Asked if there was any indication if the fires were purposely set or the result of unattended campfires, Ottaviano said that’s what fire investigators are trying to figure out.
“There could be a number of human determined causes,” she said, adding that the Forest Service would not speculate.
She acknowledged, however, that it was unusual for that many fires to start at one time.
She said that climate data showed there was no lightning in the area when the fires were discovered on Oct. 1.
The fires are burning in the El Rito Ranger District two to four miles north of the community of El Rito and one mile from Forest Road 599 and the El Rito campground.
The Forest Service has issued a caution urging people who are smoke sensitive or were respiratory problems or heart disease to take precautionary measures, as there will be some residual smoke in the area this week.