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Humidity helps fire effort

Thompson Ridge, 5:43 p.m. — The chance of rain has largely passed, though humidity is helping slow the fire and has increased throughout the day.

Humidity was predicted to reach between 85 and 90 percent by nightfall, which can slow fires and help firefighters strengthen containment lines.

But crews also had plans today of dropping ping-pong-ball-like fire starters on the north and west sides of the blaze to ignite low-intensity fires to meet the Thompson Ridge blaze as it head up the ridge.

Crews began dropping the igniting objects from helicopters earlier today, but the winds and dry conditions made them stop early Wednesday afternoon.

Also, humidity can actually hurt firefighters’ controlled burn efforts, by preventing fires from catching.

“Sometimes you can’t get it to burn,” said fire spokeswoman Lori Cook. “I know that sounds ironic.

The Type 2 Incident Command Team will meet in about and hour and a half to go over the fire’s Wednesday activity, and they will also re-assess the acreage and containment counts.

The Tres Lagunas Fire also saw trace amounts of precipitation Wednesday.

— Keep with for updates, and, of course, pick up tomorrow’s Albuquerque Journal.

Thompson Ridge, 3:34 p.m. — There’s a chance, albeit slim, of thunderstorms this afternoon over the Jemez Mountains, and crews are hoping that rain will allow them to start low-intensity fires to head off the rapid northeast expansion of the Thompson Ridge Fire.

The historic cabins in the Valle Grande appear, at this point, to have been saved thanks to more than 11,000 gallons of flame retardant and late-night firefighter efforts. Also seemingly safe are the 40-to-50 homes west of the fire.

But should rain come, a fire spokeswoman said, it has to be substantial. A small sprinkling not only would offer little help to slowing the blaze but also could create erratic winds that complicate firefighting efforts.

Despite the chance of rain, the day is shaping up much like Tuesday: High winds and temperatures and low relative humidity.

“The fire was just moving (Tuesday),” fire spokeswoman Lori Cook said. “There wasn’t much anybody could do.”

But crews today could really use some precipitation to airdrop fire-starting “ping pong balls” that spark low-intensity fires that crews manage and direct toward the freight-train-like Thompson Ridge Fire, which has doubled in size almost every day since it sparked May 31.

“We’re hoping, because of these thunderstorms, that there might be a window,” Cook said.


Keep with for updates and pick up tomorrow’s Albuquerque Journal for a full story.

Thompson Ridge, 1:00 p.m.: The Thompson Ridge fire burned down the east side of Redondo Peak overnight, toward the iconic Valle Grande. Fire was visible from State Route 4, the scenic highway that skirts the historic preserve, and flames approached the Valles Grande National Preserve’s building complex in the forest on the edge of the grass-filled valley, according to preserve spokesman Terry McDermott.

Tres Lagunas, Noon: The Tres Lagunas Fire burning north of Pecos is now up to about 9,200 acres, but the good news in the latest report from the fire management team is that wildfire is 15 percent contained.

Also, fire managers opened more of N.M. 63, the road through Pecos Canyon. The closure point was moved north to El Macho church at mile marker 14, allowing some residents and homeowners to return to their houses and cabins. Most of the canyon was evacuated after the fire broke out Thursday.

Farther north in Holy Ghost Canyon, on the west side of the fire, fire crews continue efforts to save homes and other structures. Sprinklers using creek water are operating to keep structures wet and raise humidity levels. The fire is close to some structures in the Holy Ghost area but so far none have burned, the fire team says.


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Sprinklers are being used to wet down the Holy Ghost Canyon area being threatened by the Tres Lagunas Fire.

Sprinklers are being used to wet down the Holy Ghost Canyon area being threatened by the Tres Lagunas Fire.

A new spot fire was discovered north Holy Ghost Canyon last night and it will be attacked with fire retardant from helicopters today.

Crews are said to be improving bulldozer lines in several areas and working to secure the fire’s  southern perimeter. But residents should expect  to see an increase of smoke from “burnouts” by crews trying to improve previously created fire lines. This work will take place east of Cow Creek within the fire scar of the old Viveash Fire of 2000. Downed logs and debris from that fire will contribute to the increase in smoke, the fire team said.

The burnout operation is considered key to clearing up unburned fuel in that area and providing more protection for the Gallinas Watershed, which provides most of the water supply for Las Vegas, N.M., to the east, and  keeping the fire west of Forest Road 92.

Today’s weather is expected to feature dry air to the west that will be meeting more moist air from the east, creating fairly volatile conditions, with a chance of thunderstorms but cooler temperatures. Spot fires are still likely and thunderstorms with lightning are possible, according the fire managers’  morning update.

Fire crews have cleared vegetation from around cabins like this one that could be threatened by the Tres Lagunas Fire.(Courtesy New Mexico Incident Management Team)

Fire crews have cleared vegetation from around cabins like this one that could be threatened by the Tres Lagunas Fire.(Courtesy New Mexico Incident Management Team)


7 a.m. update:

By John Fleck / Journal Staff Writer

An overnight reconnaissance flight by fire teams found the Thompson Ridge fire has continued to grow, covering at least 9,391 acres in the Jemez Mountains, up 4,941 acres from 24 hours earlier.


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Copyright © 2013 Albuquerque Journal

by T.S. Last and Patrick Lohmann / Journal Staff Writers

From Santa Fe, it looked like a massive volcano was erupting – with a giant plume of smoke reaching skyward Tuesday from the rapidly expanding Thompson Ridge Fire about 10 miles north of Jemez Springs.

Warm temperatures and low humidity had allowed the fire to increase to 4,450 acres by Tuesday morning and then again to 7,400 acres by Tuesday night. Wind gusts up to 30 mph later in the day created an “extreme fire behavior day,” allowing the fire to continue to grow and emit massive smoke throughout the day.

“It’s just being wind-driven and weather-driven,” U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Jan Bardwell said of the smoke plume. “It really could release a lot.”

The dry, windy conditions did not help efforts to combat the Tres Lagunas Fire, which had burned 9,000 acres in the Santa Fe National Forest and Pecos Wilderness by Tuesday night. It is 15 percent contained.

The fire continued to rage along N.M. 63, closing off major access to the forest and wilderness area.

A major concern of the Tres Lagunas Fire is that it could spread east into the Gallinas River watershed, the source of about 90 percent of the water supply for the city of Las Vegas, N.M., population 13,700.

Firefighters are trying to seal the east side of that fire from the watershed against prevailing westerly winds.

The state Environment Department issued a smoke advisory Tuesday for Pecos, Jemez Springs and La Cueva due to the two fires. The department also warned that other areas, including Las Vegas, Los Alamos, Santa Fe and south of Santa Fe may experience visibility and health issues for residents with respiratory problems.

More than 1,200 firefighters are battling both blazes.

The Thompson Ridge Fire in the Jemez burned an area south of Redondo Peak, and Fenton Lake State Park was closed to allow helicopters to continually scoop water. The park is expected to remain closed until June 20.

Even though the fire is moving east away from the 40 to 50 homes evacuated since the blaze began Friday, evacuations are still in place for Thompson Valley, Rancho de la Cueva and Elk Valley.

A group of a dozen cabins in the Valles Caldera was about a half-mile west of one flank of the Thompson Ridge Fire on Tuesday. Crews were working to douse the area to prevent the fire from consuming the vacant cabins.

In the Tres Lagunas Fire near Pecos, fire crews continued to focus attention in the Holy Ghost Canyon, where a subdivision made up of several homes is located.

An irrigation system set up to douse the property has been running continuously for several days, and helicopters and tanker planes have dumped water in the area in an effort to thwart the threat.

Rita Baysinger, a spokeswoman on the Tres Lagunas Fire, said so far the efforts have proven successful.

“The fire came down all the way to the bottom of Holy Ghost Canyon, and it came down just how they wanted it to,” she said. “It got down to the bottom and just went out.”

In addition, some of the firefighters attacking the blaze worked to establish a direct fire line from Indian Creek toward Holy Ghost to seal off the fire in that section of the forest.

As of this morning, no structures have been destroyed in the fire, which started Thursday. But John Pierson, incident commander for the fire, said flames had come as close as 20 feet to some buildings.

Tres Lagunas Fire crews also have been working to construct a line in the northeast portion of the fire to tie into Forest Road 92 in the southeast corner. Evacuations of 144 homes north from El Macho church remain in effect.

On Monday, a spot fire ignited ahead of the main blaze on the east side.

“Night crews were out for the first time, just to get to that spot,” Baysinger said. “There’s been a lot of attention put in that area, working with helicopters to put that out.”

Baysinger said the spot fire consumed between 30 and 40 acres.

N.M. 63 remains closed through Pecos Canyon, a popular destination for fishing, camping and hiking. Also closed is Forest Road 92, two miles north of the Bull Creek road.