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Weather continues to fan Thompson Ridge blaze, VIDEO added

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VIDEO: Lt. Gov. Sanchez gives update

Central West Zone Incident Command officials said they have drawn a perimeter around the Thompson Ridge Fire and plan to contain it within the set perimeter.  The boundary encompasses 25,000 acres of the Valles Caldera. The fire itself has grown to 9.394 acres and is located on the western edge of the Caldera as of Tuesday night.

According to Fire Management Officer Bea Day, they’ve managed to complete the burnout at the western edge where the fire first began, securing homes in the La Cueva area and elsewhere. 

“It doesn’t mean we’re out of danger yet, for this is a very active fire,” Day told the audience at a community meeting in Jemez Springs Tuesday evening.

One of the challenges of fighting the fire has been the weather, according to Day. While they’ve had days with some precipitation, that advantage tends to evaporate as the day wears on, leaving them to fight literally an uphill battle.

“So Monday, what happened was as the humidity dropped it didn’t take long for the smoke to come up. It was very quick; it’s such an indication of how dry everything is,” she said.

The dryness and the wind added to the speed of the fire, which is how it ended up near the Valle Grande by Tuesday.

Even though it does not have an active role in fighting the fire, the Los Alamos Fire Department has been closely monitoring the situation, especially since it’s reached the Valle Grande.  As of Tuesday, Deputy Chief Justin Grider was busy obtaining status reports from incident command about what was happening on Thompson Ridge and now, Redondo Peak. 

“We are still in observing mode, and what I’m hoping for tonight is an update from the ICP tonight (Tuesday) and tomorrow morning I’ll be at the morning update,” Grider said.  As for what’s happening now, Grider said the fire in the Valle Grande is a result from the aggressive action of the fire Monday.

“This is a spot from the Redondo fire that came down and started taking hold,” he said. 

The Central West Zone Incident Management Team reports that they brought in the big guns Tuesday to help battle the rapidly-growing Thompson Ridge Fire that’s been burning since Friday.

“The Very Large Air Tanker (VLAT) also known as a DC-10 was used today to reinforce the retardant line on Redondo Peak,” officials said in a statement issued late Tuesday. “It was also used to pretreat an area west of the buildings at the Valles Caldera Head Quarters Historic District. Firefighters were actively engaged in fire suppression along established fire lines on the north and south flanks of the fire.”

More than 550 firefighters are now involved in battling the blaze in the Jemez Mountains west of Los Alamos.

The Wednesday morning update said there are 17 crews, 29 engines, four water tenders, three bulldozers, three air tankers and nine helicopters are involved in fighting the fire.

The latest update states, “Yesterday’s weather was once again the driving force for extreme fire behavior.  This erratic behavior continued until 3:00 a.m. this morning on the east side of the fire close to the Valles Caldera Headquarters Historic District.  Fire remains active northeast of the headquarters.  At the top of Redondo Peak, firefighting efforts were able to protect the cultural site.

“The west side of the fire remains secure with minimal fire behavior.  Firefighters improved fireline along the northwest side of the fire.  They conducted burnout operations, removing fuels to widen the fireline.  Along the southern end of the fire, firefighters continued to improve line.

“Today, the fire will remain active as dry, warm and windy conditions will occur in the morning hours.

“The possibility of scattered thunderstorms east of the fire may reduce fire behavior as humidity increases.  This could assist firefighters as they reinforce firelines and contain spot fires.”

Fenton Lake State Park and all points of entry to the Valles Caldera National Preserve including the Valle Grande Staging Area are closed to the public due to fire activity.

Communities in and around the Santa Fe National Forest remain open and accessible including Jemez Springs, Jemez Pueblo, Santa Clara Pueblo, Los Alamos and Bandelier National Monument. Camping, hiking and other recreational opportunities are available in the area.

Sandoval County, meanwhile, warned residents to be ready to evacuate in the Thompson Ridge and Rancho LaCueva areas.

The press release stated, “Conditions already have caused officials to limit travel on the roads near the fire. Residents who already have left the area will not be allowed to return until the threat subsides. 

“At this time, full-time residents who are still in their homes may remain, but travel will be restricted to necessary activities such as going to and from work. If an evacuation order is issued, all residents will have to leave the area until the order is lifted.”

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