News Column

New Mexico Fire Defies Containment Efforts

June 10, 2013

Fire crews in northern New Mexico scrambled Sunday to re-draw containment lines after the Thompson Ridge Fire burst through a fire line on the southeast part of the more-than-20,700-acre blaze.

Meanwhile, an 800-acre fire burned quickly in the Gila Wilderness without an on-the-ground firefighter response, due to the so-called Silver Fire's remote location and thick forest.

Rappellers were to be dropped near the Silver Fire, which ignited near Kingston in the Black Range Ranger District, to hack out a heli-pad to allow a helicopter to unload Hotshot fire crews.

That fire has been burning since June 7, one of around half a dozen sparked from dry lightning strikes during a thunderstorm over the Gila. The Silver Fire is by far the largest.

The Thompson Ridge Fire near Jemez Springs burned relatively actively on Sunday, although shade from gathered clouds eased its growth and allowed firefighters to focus on strengthening containment lines on the fire's west, north and east sides.

Crews on Sunday also had to push south side containment lines, including to state Highway 4, after a spot fire ignited outside of the lines Saturday night.

A helicopter was dropping ping-pong-ball-sized devices that ignite low-intensity fires on the fire's southeast edge in order to slow down the "intensely hot" blaze as it reached the old containment lines.

But the fire burst through the low-intensity fires, sending crews scrambling Sunday to rebuild containment lines.

It was unclear as of Sunday evening just how close the fire got to the highway, which was closed after the fire jumped the fire line, but the fire was active throughout Sunday, according to fire information officer Dana Howlett.

Officials were scheduled to meet Sunday evening to discuss the fire's progression and gauge how the fire lines are holding up. Also of concern were the lightning strikes that could be seen over portions of the Thompson Ridge Fire on Sunday, though no new fires were reported. The fire was 40 percent contained.

Crews were having a better time with the other northern New Mexico wildfire Sunday, mostly taking care of still-burning parts of the Tres Lagunas Fire about 10 miles north of Pecos.

That fire has burned more than 10,000 acres and is 45 percent contained. Firefighters were transitioning from suppressing the fire to the "mop up" stage.

Officials there reported making good progress and even seeing some light rain over portions of the blaze.

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Source: Copyright Albuquerque Journal (NM) 2013

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