San Miguel fire continues to burn

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By Special to the Monitor

The lightning-ignited San Miguel Wildland Fire is currently at 1,422 acres; 1,294 acres on Bandelier National Monument and 128 acres on Santa Fe National Forest.  

“We are using a variety of strategies to manage this fire safely, effectively, and cost efficiently,” said Bandelier National Monument Superintendent Jason Lott.  “Firefighter and public health remains our top priority,” he added.

“Bottom line,” noted Philmont Taylor of the Los Alamos County Office of Emergency Management, “unless or until this fire begins to threaten structures or safety, it’s looking like it’ll be with us for a good part of the summer as a fuels reduction vehicle.”

In an e-mail distributing the latest news from the Bandelier fire management center, Taylor cautioned that there are some backcountry closures and restrictions now in place that campers and hikers should check if planning a visit.

“The fire is beginning to reach the boundaries of its natural progression,” said Incident Commander Robert Morales. The southern perimeter of the fire remains inactive. “On the north and east, we plan check the growth of the fire to keep the fire out of Capulin Canyon. We will continue to monitor the fire’s natural progression as it continues to move west within the Dome Wilderness.”

Monday, crews prepared a fireline ahead of the northeast perimeter to keep the fire out of Capulin Canyon.  

A helicopter supported the firefighters throughout most of the day, cooling down hotspots which allowed firefighters an opportunity to construct a line to keep the fire’s growth in check.  

In the afternoon, two SEATs (Single Engine Air Tankers) also dropped water in the area between the Boundary Peak Trail and the Capulin Canyon.

“The majority of fire activity occurs along the active perimeter of the fire,” Bandelier National Monument Fire Management Officer Gary Kemp explained. “While we may continue to see similar fire growth over the next week or so, the fire will begin to lose steam as it reaches natural boundaries and burns into the area previously burned during the 1996 Dome Fire.

“Over time, fire and smoke activity will be limited to hot spots within the fire’s perimeter, which will continue to smolder until extinguished naturally by rain or snow,” he added.

There are currently 61 total personnel assigned to the fire, including: 1 Wildland Fire Module, 2 hotshot crews, and various overhead positions.

Today, two additional handcrews will arrive to assist the existing crews with suppressing the growth of the northeast finger of the fire.

The helicopter and SEATs will be available to assist the ground resources if needed.

Smoke may be visible from Los Alamos, Santa Fe, Bernalillo, Albuquerque and I-25, especially in the afternoons and evenings. Smoke may settle in some communities during the overnight hours.

There has been good smoke dispersal during the day.  Smoke is expected to vary in intensity, location and duration with fire activity, fuels, and weather over the duration of the fire.      

Santa Fe National Forest Backcountry Status:  Forest Road (FR) 142 is closed to the public at FR 289 due to fire vehicle traffic.  

Additionally, the following Santa Fe National Forest trails are closed for public safety:  Trail 116 – Capulin Trail, Trail 118 – St. Peter’s Dome Trail, Trail 119 – Turkey Spring Trail, and Trail 427 – Boundary Peak Trail.