San Antonio Fire holding at 500 acres

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Crews battling weather, rough terrain

By Tris DeRoma

The San Antonio Fire in the Valles Caldera Preserve is holding at 500 acres Monday as crews work around the effects of a Saturday night thunderstorm, which made access roads slippery and muddy over the weekend.

Preserve officials said the rain has not slowed the fire.

“With an increase in temperature and lowering of humidity, roads and vegetation are drying, which may contribute to higher fire activity. Yesterday's reconnaissance flight indicated multiple spot fires on the northwest perimeter of the fire,” said Valles Caldera Preserve Spokesperson Kimberly DeVall.

“The Albuquerque Zone Incident Management Type 3 Team spent (Saturday) planning a course of action to tackle the areas of the fire that are in steep, rough terrain and accessible only by foot,” DeVall said.

According to DeVall, inclement weather and steep, rough terrain has slowed efforts to fight the fire, located in the northwest area of the preserve.

“Part of the issue is that it takes a lot of time for the crew to travel out to the site. We have rough roads, and then there’s the steep terrain and some spotting in some areas,” DeVall said. “So it’s a little harder to combat all those little individual areas.”

A Saturday thunderstorm hindered efforts. The fire remains uncontained.

Crews are setting up containment lines around the fire, and will continue to do so Monday.

“Fire fighters will continue work (Monday) strengthening the hand line on the steep and rocky southwestern perimeter of the fire. Majority of fire fighter's efforts will be focused on construction of hand and dozer line on the northwest side of the fire,” DeVall said.

She also said its still not safe for firefighters to penetrate the fire’s interior. The fire started June 14 from a lightning strike.

“They are still watching the outer areas. It’s still not safe for them to go inside the perimeter,” DeVall said.

A historic cabin at the site remains intact.

The preserve’s entrance station and bookstore remain open to the public, and ranger-led tours and hikes will continue within the park’s cabin district. NM 4 remains open to traffic, but all other access and activities to the caldera have been suspended.

According to the National Weather Service’ weekly forecast for the area, fire crews will continue to battle the weather and the fire.

The NWS is expecting a few strong to severe thunderstorms, complete with hail and strong winds to hit the area Tuesday evening.

The service is also predicting the weather be dry for the rest of the week, with “critical” fire weather conditions settling into the area by Saturday afternoon.

A flight restriction has also been ordered over the fire. The restriction includes drones and other unmanned aerial vehicles.

The preserve and the Santa Fe National Forest remain closed under strict fire restrictions.

The U.S. Forest and Park Service make up a majority of the firefighting crews. Over 200 firefighters are fighting the fire. Los Alamos also has a unit deployed at the fire. According to DeVall many retired agency officials have joined the fight as well as several pueblo fire departments.