Colorado Peak Fire at 80% containment--See Exclusive Photos

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By John Severance

Fire crews have gotten a handle on the Colorado Peak Fire and firefighters are putting out hot spots and performing mopup duty.


The latest update says the size of the fire is 245 acres. The size of the fire was downgraded because of better mapping, the Forest Service announced.

Incident Commander Chris Stevens told the Los Alamos Monitor Thursday afternoon that the fire is 80 percent contained. 

Stevens said that crews worked Wednesday night putting in a hand line around the perimeter of the fire.

"It's called a shaky containment," Stevens said.

Stevens said there has been a sense of urgency to get this fire out because winds are expected to pick up and there likely will be red flag warnings. 

The fire site looked like a war zone. But it appears as if firefighters have things well under control. Stevens said crews will be on the scene Through Friday to put out any potential hot spots.

The Los Alamos Monitor will publish photos of the scene in Friday's newspaper.

The Forest Service committed more personnel and equipment to battle a fast-growing wildfire that was discovered Wednesday afternoon about five miles south of Los Alamos National Laboratory's Technical Area 33 and about eight miles from White Rock.

The Colorado Peak Fire is located in the Caja del Rio on the Española Ranger District between Cochiti and Santa Fe, about 10 miles southwest of the Santa Fe Airport.

Wednesday, residents from north of Albuquerque to Santa Fe and Los Alamos saw the smoke. Fuels on the ground were dry due to the lack of moisture and are creating a fair amount of smoke.

Los Alamos County Fire Chief Troy Hughes said Thursday morning that LAFD personnel are monitoring the situation and that winds are currently pushing the fire to the east.

"The fire is east of the Rio Grande River," he said before the morning update. "We are hoping to use the river as a buffer. The good news is that the Bear Springs is wrapping up and that is a relief so we can commit more resources to the Colorado Peak Fire.”

Already, there are quite a bit of resources committed to fighting the fire with 156 fire personnel, three Type 1 crews, four Type 2 crews, three engines, two Type 1 helicopters, and two bulldozers.

This afternoon, temperatures will warm into the 80s with humidity once again falling below 15 percent. Winds will be very similar to Wednesday, generally breezy from the south/southwest.

No homes have been damaged although the fire was threatening some cultural sites. In addition, there have been no evacuations or road closures.

Firefighters fought the blaze by dropping water and fire retardant Wednesday.

According to this morning’s summary, “ Firefighters worked through the night to contain the fire.  Sparse, patchy fuels and an aggressive fire fight have helped to contain the fire.  A decrease in fire activity has also decreased smoke.  Minimal smoke is expected today.”

 “Active fire behavior was observed with running and torching Wednesday afternoon. Aerial resources dropped water and fire retardant to slow the fires spread and cool off hot spots. Firefighters worked through the night to contain the fire.”

Hughes said LAFD crews have not committed any personnel to the fires and will only do so if there is a blaze within the Los Alamos County limits.

Hughes, however, has another serious concern.

“We don’t need a new start (fire) but the conditions are ripe,” Hughes said. “The Forest Service is doing a great job but another start would really tax the system.”

Meanwhile, Forest Service officials report that tactics employed Wednesday to contain the Bear Creek wildfire in the Jemez Ranger District yielded results and the fire is now at 90 percent containment.

The relatively low intensity burnout tactic used Wednesday was very successful, leaving no significant pockets of unburned fuel and no spot fires. Residual spot fires from last night’s operations were detected and suppressed. The burnout was very clean, resulting in little to no impact to natural and cultural resources. At times, smoke was voluminous due to burning in heavy fuels, but areas with lighter fuels produced very little visible smoke.

Enough progress was made Wednesday that some crews were released Thursday, and demobilization will continue as the fire winds down. As soon as full containment is achieved, management will be returned to the Jemez Ranger District.

New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Secretary John Bemis and State Forester Tony Delfin announced restrictions on fireworks, smoking, campfire and open-fires for all or portions of 21 counties. The restrictions will go into effect at 8 a.m. Friday.

The restrictions will be imposed on all non-municipal, non-federal and non-tribal lands in Bernalillo, Catron, Cibola, Dona Ana, Grant, Hidalgo, Los Alamos, Luna, McKinley, Rio Arriba, Sandoval, Santa Fe, San Juan, Sierra, Socorro, Taos, Torrance, and Valencia counties. They also cover the portions of Colfax and Mora Counties west of Interstate 25 and only the portions of San Miguel County west of Interstate 25 and west of Highway 84.