Firefighters Brace for Windy Conditions in New Mexico

April 23, 2008

Nine homes, nine outbuildings and two recreational vehicles were destroyed after a 3,745-acre fire went on a nail-biting run between the towns of Manzano and Torreon, N.M., fire officials said.

Wind-driven flames jumped a fire contingency line, crossed the Cibola National Forest boundary onto private land Sunday afternoon and roared onto flatter land with grass and shrubs, considered lighter but “flashier fuels,” said fire information officer Deanna Younger.

No injuries were reported. Torrance County officials couldn’t say whether anyone had been living in the homes.

Air tankers were out Monday dropping fire retardant ahead of the Trigo Fire as helicopters dropped water on hot spots. More than 385 people were fighting the blaze, including six hot shot crews and eight engines. Phoenix-area fire departments sent firefighters and equipment.

“We are throwing everything we possibly can at this to hold it,” Younger said.

Officials on Sunday asked people to leave about 130 homes around Manzano and Torreon as the fire raced down the east side of the Manzano Mountains southeast of Capilla Peak, doubling in size from Sunday afternoon to Monday morning.

Although few people paid heed to voluntary evacuations for Manzano and Torreon, those evacuations remained in effect Monday, said Younger. Evacuation centers at Mountainair High School and Estancia Community Center remained closed Monday because so few people showed up, she said.

The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency announced it has authorized the use of federal funds to fight the fire, which was 10 percent contained. The FEMA aid covers 75 pecent of firefighting expenses incurred by state or local governments.

“Wildfires like this show how crucial it is for firefighters to receive the support they need to protect the public,” said FEMA regional administrator William Peterson.

More than $1.85 million has been spent so far to fight the blaze.

The Trigo Fire started last Tuesday, closing Capilla Peak and threatening communications towers and a University of New Mexico observatory. Investigators are looking into the cause, which was deemed suspicious.

In southern New Mexico, the Pepper Fire was 100 percent contained Monday, said fire information officer Margo Whitt.

She said firefighters were being released and others will continue to mop up operations. The blaze had scorched about 640 acres near Weed.

The Trigo Fire burning in the Manzano Mountains south of Albuquerque should set off warning bells for homeowners that wildfire season has arrived in New Mexico, the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association said. New Mexico residents need to prepare and have a plan in place before they find themselves in the path of a raging wildfire.

“A tragedy like the Trigo Fire is a devastating reminder of how little time there is to react when a wildfire threatens,” said Carole Walker, RMIIA executive director. “Unfortunately, most people don’t think about how they will escape and what insurance protection they have to rebuild and replace their belongings until something unthinkable occurs.”

Additional information provided by RMIIA

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.