Thompson fire close to 24K acres

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By The Staff

Authorities say the Thompson Ridge fire in northern New Mexico now is 60 percent contained as of Thursday morning.

That’s 10 percent higher than earlier Wednesday and officials say the fire grew by only about 90 acres. It now is at 23,946 acresThe fire has burned nearly 36 square miles in the western portion of the Santa Fe National Forest and in the Valles Caldera National Preserve.

It began May 31 because of a downed power line.

Fire officials say cloud cover allowed nearly 900 firefighters and support personnel to get a lot of work done.
Previously unburned fuel in the fire’s interior produced tall plumes of smoke Tuesday.

Some of that was due to crowns of trees catching fire after being dried out from when low-intensity fire moved through an area previously.

The Thursday morning update said, “Firefighters took advantage of favorable conditions to conduct burnout operations along the containment line on the southwest flank of the fire along Valles Caldera Road 02 (VC02).

“Aerial ignitions were initiated around 3:30 in the afternoon. Crews then worked throughout the night to complete the burnout operation and bring the fire down to the containment line at VC02. Around 11 p.m., winds shifted 180 degrees due to the collapse of thunderstorms to the east of the fire. This resulted in some short range spotting and a small spot fire on the southeastern end of the burnout. The 150-acre spot fire was stopped by dozer lines and firefighters.

“Fire behavior is expected to be moderate today with southwesterly winds pushing the fire back into the black and potential cloud cover in the afternoon. Patrol, mop up and extinguishing hot spots identified by infrared imagery will continue on the west, north and east sides of the fire. Crews will continue to hold and mop up along the southeastern edge of the fire.”

The Jaroso Fire, in the Pecos Wilderness, continues to stymie firefighters.

A wildfire burning in the steep and narrow canyons of the Pecos Wilderness north of Santa Fe ballooned to more than 12 square miles on Wednesday.

Fire managers said it’s still too dangerous to put any firefighters on the ground.

The only option for battling the Jaroso Fire has been a fleet of water-dropping helicopters.

The other problem is the area has an immense amount of fuel that has built up over the years. Duane Archuleta, the fire management officer for the Santa Fe National Forest, said the fire is now burning through an area where dead trees are stacked up to five feet high.

There are also pockets of bug-killed timber that are dry and ready to ignite.

“This fuel type, when it’s ready to burn, it’s going to burn and there’s not a whole lot people can do about it,” Archuleta said.

Archuleta expected the fire to make more “hard runs” on Wednesday. That comes after the lightning-sparked blaze more than quadrupled in size on Tuesday, growing from 360 acres to more than 9 square miles and sending up an enormous plume of smoke.

That afternoon plume is what worries fire managers. The concern was that if it collapses, it could violently push the fire down and out in any direction. Similar fire behavior helped the record-breaking Las Conchas fire grow in 2011.

There are some small communities about 10 miles to the northwest of the fire. Crews were planning on building fire lines and clearing out fuel in key areas miles ahead of the blaze in hopes of protecting the communities if the fire heads that way.

Meanwhile, the Silver fire continues to grow in southern New Mexico, now having burned 29 square miles in the Gila National Forest west of Hillsboro.

The number of firefighters and support personnel assigned to the lightning-caused fire has grown 478.

Firefighters are trying to protect structures such as the small village of Kingston. The fire has gotten as close as a quarter-mile to the old mining town whose 45 or so residents already have evacuated.

And a wildfire burning near Colorado Springs has destroyed at least 360 homes, making it the most destructive in state history.

El Paso County sheriff Terry Maketa said Thursday that deputies still haven’t been able to verify the condition of 79 homes as the wildfire continues to burn. So it’s possible the figure could rise even higher.

The fire is burning near where the Waldo Canyon fire torched 347 homes last year. It was previously the most destructive in Colorado history.

Some of the homes that were previously listed as standing were destroyed as high winds pushed the 23-square-mile wildfire back into areas that had already burned.