Tuesday night was a rough one on the Valles Caldera. Fire crews were having a fairly easy time fending off the flames when the unexpected happened. The smoke plume from the Thompson Ridge Fire suddenly collapsed, sending a storm of high winds and fire toward the Valles Caldera Historic District.
“It has all that energy that’s going straight up,” said Lindsay McElfresh, a structural and group trainee for the U.S. Forest Service. “But then, it starts to lose all that energy when it begins to cool down, and it will just fall.”
But all that energy has to go somewhere, and Tuesday night into the wee hours of Wednesday morning it was headed straight for the historic district, which included the historic Baca Ranch, located between a slope populated with old growth forest and the Valle Grande, which is mainly a vast meadow of dry, yellow grass.
It was quite a battle, according to firefighter Vas Naiker, an engine captain with the Valles Caldera crew. Luckily, they had some backup systems in place.
“The (DC-10 Tanker) had already done a drop, but the fire had gotten around it,” he said. “When it came around the corner, we activated the defense systems.”