Bandelier Wilderness fire runs it course

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By Roger Snodgrass

A fire that began on Thursday in a remote area of Bandelier National Park is still smoldering, despite the wet weather in the area Monday.

“It has gotten some rain on it,” said Marla Rodgers, the park’s assistant fire management officer. “However, it still has some smoke on it. With the warming and drying trend over the next few days, we expect we’ll be seeing smoke for awhile.”

As soon as the fire was reported by a hiker who saw smoke coming from the next canyon over, the park service flew out to size it up.

Given the weather forecast coming up over the holiday weekend, “We decided not to suppress it,” Rodgers said. “We decided to let it run its natural course.”

When first seen it was about three acres, she said, and when last seen on Sunday evening, it had grown to 46 acres. While the moisture had slowed the fire’s progress, it could continue to grow, depending on the weather.

The fire was in a remote part of the Bandelier Wilderness, in the southwest corner of the park. It’s about a two and a half hour hike into the fire location. Bandelier and the National Forest share a helicopter, but the weather limited flying in for a view on Monday.

“We have people hiking in to it again tomorrow,” Rodgers said. “They’ll be doing some monitoring and observation of the weather and fire behavior.”

The Santa Fe National Forest issued a notice Monday in response to a flurry of phone calls, noting that the wildfire was visible from Los Alamos, Santa Fe, Bernalillo and I-25.

“It is burning in piñon and juniper and ponderosa pine stringers,” the bulletin stated.

“It is in a remote location and not threatening any sensitive resources or visitor use area.”

The fire season traditionally winds down at the start of the monsoons, a pattern of afternoon thundershowers that made an early appearance this year.