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Jaroso Fire will be left to burn itself out

SANTA FE, N.M. — The Jaroso Fire has been burning in the Pecos Wilderness for nearly four weeks now and is still zero percent contained.

But fire officials aren’t overly concerned.

“Mother Nature started this fire, and Mother Nature will put it out,” said Lawrence Lujan, a spokesman for the Santa Fe National Forest.

Steep and rugged terrain has prevented fire crews from making a direct attack on the blaze, which has burned more than 11,000 acres since lightning sparked it on June 10.


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Recent weather, though, has been on their side. Lower temperatures, higher humidity, less wind and more rain have been favorable for fire suppression. The fire has grown very little over the past two weeks, and predictions call for more rain next week.

“The monsoons are shaping up, and that’s going to provide some added relief and decreased fire danger,” Lujan said. “However, it does increase the chance of flooding downstream of the burn scar.”

There have been no reports of flooding yet, but mudslides and flash flooding remain among the Forest Service’s greatest concerns.

A Burned Area Emergency Response team is already assessing the damage.

The team, which includes soil scientists, hydrologists and GIS specialists, arrived Wednesday to attend an interagency briefing, then got its first look at the blaze in a flyover Thursday.

“There are a couple of areas that look like high (burn) severity,” said Cathleen Thompson, a spokeswoman for the BAER team on the Jaroso Fire. “There’s still a lot of green out there – it’s kind of mosaic – not everything was torched.”

Thompson said the team soon will produce a burn severity map, based on infrared aerial photos and what BAER team members are able to observe.

“They’ll put all that data together and do modeling to get an idea of the percentage of water runoff into the watershed,” she said.


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Meanwhile, command of the fire was returned to the Santa Fe National Forest on Friday.

The Northern Rockies Wildland Fire Management Team, headed by Incident Commander Brad McBratney, had been in charge since shortly after the fire started.

“They specialized in longer duration fires and had brought in subject matter experts instrumental in coming up with long-term strategies,” Lujan said. “The new incident commander will be monitoring the fire and will take action, if needed, based on the long-term strategies Brad’s team left us.”

Lujan said that while crews haven’t directly attacked the blaze, firefighters have employed indirect fire suppression tactics away from the fire’s perimeter. He said crews have spent time scouting territory where containment and contingency lines could be established.

According to the latest Jaroso Fire update, there are 29 firefighters assigned to the blaze.

The update also indicates that sections of the fire have shown no activity for several days.

“If the fire were to get active again, we will continue to use aerial support, dropping water and retardant from helicopters and air tankers,” Lujan said.

Numerous lightning-caused spot fires have started up over the past several days, but all of them were quickly suppressed and most covered less than an acre.

No structures have been burned in the fire, and none are currently threatened.

All of the Santa Fe National Forest is closed to public access and will remain closed at least through this weekend. Some sections of the forest could reopen next week.

Even after the forest reopens, emergency closures will remain in effect in areas affected by the Tres Lagunas, Thompson Ridge and Jaroso fires.

Anyone seeking information on closures in a particular area is encouraged to call the ranger station serving that location.