Wildfire forces evacuation

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Blaze has nearly doubled in size since Wednesday

By The Staff

JEMEZ SPRINGS  — Forest Service officials say 10 people were evacuated from the community of Seven Springs because of a wildfire burning in the Jemez Mountains northwest of Albuquerque.


Evacuations also were ordered for campers in the Fenton Lake area.

The fire is burning on the Santa Fe National Forest about six miles northwest of Jemez Springs and a half-mile southwest of Fenton Lake State Park.

Forest officials say as many as 83 structures are threatened.

Fire Marshal/Assistant Fire Chief Michael Thompson spent time with the Los Alamos fire crews Wednesday as they prepared NNSA’s Fenton Hill site for a possible fire fight. This included clearing trees from around critical infrastructure and buildings. Thompson also went down to the fire area and found what he described as “early aggressive fire behavior.”

“Wednesday morning the fire was around 1,000 acres and today it’s 1,900 so you can see that there is lots of potential,” he said. “The Forest Service has identified a campfire that may have been the cause, in fact they have found many campfires in the area that were abandoned and not fully extinguished. The message here is that we are dry as usual in the forest and any one that leaves a campfire that is not fully out could inadvertently cause the kind of devastation that we are witnessing here. Always make sure that your campfire is out cold.”

Fire facts

Size: Approximately

1,925 acres;

Containment:  10 percent;

Time/Date Started: 12:27 p.m., Tuesday;

Location: Jemez Ranger District, Santa Fe National Forest; approximately 6 miles northwest of Jemez Springs and approximately a half southwest of Fenton Lake State Park within Sandoval County.

Cause: Under investigation — suspected abandoned campfire.  

Air support continues to aid in slowing the fire by dropping water and retardant on hot spots.  

Ground crews continue to strengthen and construct line along the west and north sides of the fire. The fire has moved to the north and west as predicted. Active fire behavior continues to occur.  On

the east side, the fire has burned into the fire scar from the human caused Lakes wildfire that burned approximately 4,000 acres in August 2002. On the south side of the fire, fire managers are using Highway 376 as part of the fire line.

A dozer line was constructed on the west flank where the fire had jumped over the fireline at the top of Schoolhouse Mesa.

Smoke continues to impact the communities within the vicinity of the fire. It will be common for smoke to be in low lying areas in the late evening and early morning due to weather conditions.

Evacuations remain in effect along FR 376, Fenton Lake State Park, the community of Seven Springs and the fish hatchery.  

Ten people were evacuated Tuesday. An evacuation center is in place at the Jemez Valley High School Gymnasium at 8501 Highway 4 near Jemez Pueblo.  

At this time no one is staying at the center as evacuees have chosen to stay with friends or family. Evacuees are encouraged to check-in at the La Cueva Fire Department.

FR 376 has been closed at the southern end at Gilman all to the way to Highway 126. All access routes leading from FR 376 within Virgin Mesa are also closed. Highway 126 is now open but is subject to close again, along with other roads and areas affected by the fire as warranted by increased fire activity.   

Resources currently committed to the fire include five Type 1 hotshot crews, three Type 2 crews, nine engines, one water tender, two dozers, air attack and lead plane, one Type 1 helicopter, one Type 3 helicopter, four air tankers.  In addition, other resources are being ordered.  

Craig Cowie’s New Mexico Type 2 Incident Management Team (IMT) has arrived and is transitioning with the Type 3 IMT. The Type 2 IMT took over management of the fire at 6 a.m. today.  

Predicted weather for today: Conditions near the fire will become hotter and drier with light winds.