LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (KRQE) - The Las Conchas Fire that burned through Santa Clara pueblo land isn't slowing down much.
It's consumed another 2,500 acres in the last couple of days.
The fire started when a falling tree took down a power line on June 26 now has blackened more than 139,000 acres.
Fire crews have been on guard most of the week because of potential lightning and heavy winds.
The fire is 40 percent contained.
At Santa Clara Pueblo volunteers have been helping residents fill sandbags to avoid a repeat of the flood damage that followed the 2000 Cerro Grande Fire that destroyed hundreds of homes in Los Alamos and churned through the pueblo's forest.
The Incident Management Team has issued these recent news updates:
Rehab, flood preparation in Santa Clara Canyon:
The Department of the Interior Burn Area Emergency Response (BAER) Team was ordered and tasked by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to assess the damage to and potential threats to BIA trust lands caused by the Las Conchas Fire. The team’s first priority is Santa Clara Canyon.
The team joins other BAER teams to make up the Las Conches BAER Team. The Las Conches BAER Team has divided the fire into the North Zone and South Zone. The task of the team is to collaborate and share resources to provide a unified approach to assessing fire effects.
The North Zone team has also been asked to do a cursory review of the assessments done on the Pacheco Fire. Sandbags and 250 concrete barriers, called k-rails, are being placed in strategic locations to protect homes and infrastructure from flooding on the Santa Clara Pueblo in anticipation of the coming monsoons.
There is an early flood warning device in place. Tribal natural resources specialists are being consulted by Team experts to ensure that all affected pueblo’s needs are identified and addressed.
Watershed experts are making plans to mitigate possible damages. Additional hazard trees are being identified for removal and specific guidelines are being generated to guide sawyers towards which trees should be felled. Noxious weeds have also been identified in the watershed.
The BIA has assigned a 638 Contract Self Determination Specialist to work with the Tribe to speed contracting procedures for emergency stabilization projects.
Updated 1400 MDT July 8, 2011; Valid for Saturday-Sunday July 9-10, 2011
This smoke outlook includes a forecast of impacts from particulate matter only and does not include radionuclides, which have not been found above background levels in any monitoring data.
Winds over the weekend will primarily push smoke from ongoing wildfires to the northwest. Smoke impacts are expected to remain near active fire areas. Unhealthy conditions are anticipated to continue near the Las Conchas fire in Los Alamos primarily in the morning.
During these conditions, people with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should avoid prolonged or heavy physical activity outdoors. Everyone else should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion outside.
The Las Conchas Fire will continue to have broad impacts through the Upper Rio Grande Valley, with potential impacts northwest of the fire. Smoke is also expected to be terrain driven at night and in the early morning with potentially significant impacts to communities that are down drainage from the fire, including Cochiti Pueblo.
The chances of thunderstorms and precipitation will increase over the weekend, which should reduce smoke impacts going forward. These areas may experience periods of air quality which is Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups (those with asthma, lung or heart disease, children, older adults, and recent science indicates pregnant women).
Low lying areas close to ongoing fire activity may experience periods with visibility of 1.5 - 2.5 miles, which is indicative of air that is unhealthy for all groups. If heavy smoke is present, then outdoor activities should be minimized where possible and caution observed when driving in reduced visibility. Take this into consideration when deciding whether or not to participate in outdoor activities, recognizing that conditions can change quickly and these projections are based on anticipated weather conditions and fire activity.
Your eyes are your best tools to determine if it's safe to be outside. Remember: if visibility is:
- 10 miles and up, the air quality is Good
- 6-9 miles, air quality is Moderate
- 3-5 miles, air quality is Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups
- 1.5-2.5 miles, air quality is Unhealthy
- 1-1.25 miles, air quality is Very Unhealthy
- 1 mile or less, air quality is Hazardous
Incident Management Team Saturday, July 9, update:
Flash-flooding almost always follows large, intense, landscape fires such as the Las Conchas Fire. For flash- flooding and evacuation information call the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management at 505-476-9600, or http://www.nmdhsem.org.
For information on burned area emergency response on pueblo land call
Community Meetings - The public is invited to attend.
La Cueva Fire Station #2 - Information Officers will conduct daily meetings at 3 p.m.
Jemez Springs at Madonna Hall on Monday, July 11 at 6 p.m.
Cochiti Lake - Location to be announced, Monday, July 11 at 6 p.m.
Several strategies are being utilized to contain the Las Conchas Fire. In many areas, firefighters have built line directly next to the fire. These lines are then mopped up by extinguishing all heat for about a hundred feet from the edge of the line. Another approach is building indirect line, away from the fire's edge. Firefighters then burn along these lines to create a wider area free of fuels. It may take several hours or even days for the backing fire from the control line to meet up with the wildfire.
Another strategy is being employed on many parts of this fire. With expected "monsoonal" rains, the fire may be extinguished naturally. In places where the fire is burning in extremely steep and dangerous terrain, containment lines have been established along existing trails and roads. These lines have been prepared for burn-out, but fire managers are hoping the rains will arrive before the fire reaches those lines, making the burn-out of containment lines unnecessary. As the fire moves closer, the decision to burn along these lines is continually re-evaluated.
Therefore, the fire continues to grow, put up smoke, and develop columns as both interior runs and perimeter growth occurs.
A current infrared map, perimeter map, and progression map are available. A KMZ file of the fire perimeter is available for those who have loaded Google Earth.
Safety and Health
The New Mexico Dept of Health reminds residents of toll-free numbers they can call to discuss health-related concerns due to wildfires burning in New Mexico. People who have questions about health-related issues due to smoke can call the New Mexico Nurse Advice Line at 1-877-725-2552. Individuals who need to talk to a mental health professional can call 1-866-HELP-1-NM.
Location: On Santa Fe National Forest in Sandoval, Los Alamos, and Rio Arriba Counties; Santa Clara Reservation; Bandelier National Monument; Valles Caldera National Preserve; and state and private in-holdings.
Size: 142,250 acres
Percent Contained: 40%
Total Personnel: 2,075 including 44 crews
Resources: 17 Helicopters; 66 Engines; 33 Water Tenders; 12 Dozers
Residences: 410 threatened; 63 destroyed
Commercial Property: 45 threatened; 0 destroyed
Outbuildings: 110 threatened; 32 destroyed
Injuries to Date: 5
NORTH ZONE - Communities/areas of Santa Clara, Chicoma Mountain, Recheulos, Vallecitos (south of Abiquiu), Abiquiu, Mendanales, Los Alamos, Pajarito Mountain Ski area and surrounding areas:
Crews will build direct fireline when possible and continue to burn-out, hold, and mop up existing firelines. Aircraft will be used to assist firefighters with holding operations along the eastern and northeastern fire edges.
Santa Clara Area/Chicoma Mountain/Recheulos/Abiquiu/ Vallecitos/Medanales: The fire continues to slowly spread up the drainage, pushing to the north toward Polvadera Peak. It is unlikely to reach the contingency line along the ridge during this burning period. Today, firefighters plan to hold the edge of the fire along the South Fork Burn area. Firefighters continue preparing a containment line that includes Vallecitos Trail from Polvadera Peak, Forest Road (FR) 144D1A, and FR 144D for burn-out.
Los Alamos Area: The fire continues to back slowly to the east and southeast. The rate of spread will increase if downslope winds develop. Control problems may arise if gusty and erratic winds occur. Firefighters will mop up and maintain the fire's perimeter and continue providing structure protection in Santa Clara Canyon.
Pajarito Mountain Ski Area: Fire behavior will be similar to the behavior in the Los Alamos area. Firefighters will continue to mop up along Pajarito Road and on the ski area. Structure protection plans for the Pajarito Ski Area are in place.
SOUTH ZONE - Communities/areas including Bandelier National Monument, Bland and Cochiti Canyons, Bearhead Peak, La Cueva, Vallecitos de Los Indios, Sierra Los Pinos and surrounding areas:
Bandelier: This area will be monitored by helicopter. Residents may occasionally see light smoke in the area, from fire well within the established control line.
Bland and Cochiti Canyons: This area continues to see little fire activity. Crews will patrol the canyons to identify and mop up any hot spots. Engines, helicopters and other firefighting resources are ready to respond to any area needing additional support.
Bearhead Peak: Crews will hold and secure both direct and indirect lines along Peralta Ridge and the line that connects Peralta Ridge to FR 266. They will scout to the south for other locations to construct line to assist in corralling the fire. Aerial ignition may be used today to back the fire towards containment lines.
de los Indios/Sierra Los Pinos: Crews continued to secure and mop up the containment line to Los Griegos. Structure protection is in place for the communication center and 220 homes in the vicinity.
NORTHWEST ZONE - Communities of Cuba, La Jara, Regina, Gallina, Youngsville, Coyote, Canones, and surrounding areas:
Containment lines along the west and northwest perimeter continue to keep the fire east of Cienega del Oso. Crews will patrol the Valles Caldera Preserve on the west and northwest edge for hot spots that might pose a threat. Construction of handline is complete in the Rito de los Indios drainage to limit fire growth along the northwest perimeter. Crews will continue preparing FR 144 to FR 27 for a burn-out along FR 27, should that become necessary.
Minimal rates of spread and fire activity are expected, due to increasing monsoonal activity to the east and across the fire area. There is a potential for re-burn in areas with heavy fuels, should high winds develop. Winds can cause fire-damaged trees and snags to blow down, which creates a hazard to firefighters.
Closures, Restrictions, & Announcements
- Forest Road 266, closed at Tent Rocks.
- Forest Road 268, north of Cochiti Lake.
- NM State Highway 126 is closed eastbound and westbound from 10.9 miles east of Cuba from mile marker 5 to mile marker 38.
- For additional road closure information, visit NM Dept of Transportation at http://nmroads.com.
- Santa Fe National Forest - Closures took effect July 2. Call 877-971-3173 for a recorded message with Forest closure information or, visit http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/sfe/conditions/index.html.
- US Army Corps of Engineers facilities at Cochiti Lake are closed through July 11.
- The Valles Caldera National Preserve is closed. Visitors who had reservations at the Preserve should call 866-382-5537 for refunds.
- The Bureau of Land Management Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is closed.
- Bandelier National Monument is closed.
- The Federal Aviation Administration has restricted air space in the Los Alamos area to provide a safe environment for firefighting aircraft operations. Visit http://tfr.faa.gov/tfr2/list.html for additional information.