Diego Fire grows but little impact expected on LA area

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By Tris DeRoma



While it’s true that Los Alamos has frequently getting smoke from the wildfire burning near Coyote, fire officials on the scene as well as here said residents shouldn’t worry too much about it coming here.

Be vigilant says Los Alamos Fire Department Deputy Chief Justin Grider, but don’t worry too much. 

“There’s still a lot of unburned fuel between us and the fire,” Grider said. “It’s about 20 to 25 miles away but we do have the Las Conchas and the Thompson Ridge burn scars between us and it. So, the likelihood of it reaching us is relatively low,”

As of now, the fire is mainly being managed by the U.S. Forest Service, since the fire started  about five days ago on U.S. Forest land, about eight miles south of Coyote. 

According to Richard Nieto, the fire’s incident commander and head of Southwest Incident Management Team 5, the fire has grown to about 3,635 acres. So far they’ve managed to keep the fire away from residential property in the area, which includes houses, ranches and various buildings used for ranching in the area. The buildings, about 50 to 60, still remain under threat. The communities of Weatherill Estates, Dunlap Spring, West Dunlap and Jarosa have been evacuated.

Though they are expecting extreme fire conditions today, which include dry air and heavy wind, they are expecting some help from the weather late Wednesday, he said at a neighborhood update meeting Tuesday night. 

“There’s a favorable forecast for tomorrow (Wednesday); there are indications that we will be getting our first monsoon weather,” he said. “If that forecast holds then we should be getting a little bit of a break. 

Though the fire is not yet contained, he said the strategy includes keeping an eye on structures and personal property in the area.

“Safety is paramount on all divisions today. Crews will be scouting for fire line construction opportunities, securing anchor points for containment lines, conducting structure assessments for protection, and will be utilizing direct suppression tactics where possible,” said the U.S. Forest Service in its latest statement. 

According to the USFS, there are about 300 personnel working on containing the fire. They will be working mostly in the southern part of the blaze today, using bulldozers to set up containment lines along Jarosa Canyon to Forest Road 93 and Guardia Spring west of Forest Road 103. 

For Los Alamos residents, the only issue they may have to deal with in the coming days or weeks is smoke, not actual fire. According to Grider, the ash that has reached Los Alamos is cold to the touch. The smoke will mostly be experienced in the evenings when the columns of air that make smoke from the fire rise cool. This makes the fire’s plume collapse and spread into Los Alamos. 

Grider suggests residents follow the “5-3-1 rule” when it comes to wildfire smoke and their health. 

The rule’s general guidelines are if you’re an older child, teenager or adult and the smoke cuts visibility to five miles, check visibility often; less than three miles, minimize outdoor activity, and less than one mile stay inside. 

For the pregnant, as well as young children, those aged 65 years or older and residents who suffer from asthma, other respiratory issues or heart problems, even more caution must be observed. 

If visibility is less than five miles, residents in these age groups or suffering from these health conditions are urged to minimize outdoor activity. 

If visibility is cut to one to three miles, residents that fall into these categories are urged to stay inside. 

For more information, log onto: nmtracking.org/en/environ_exposure/fire-and-smoke/