Crews Battle 4,425-Acre Blaze in New Mexico

April 24, 2008

Relatively calm weather gave firefighters a boost as they bolstered lines around a human-caused blaze that burned 4,425 acres and nine homes in central New Mexico’s Manzano Mountains.

Wind picked up briefly and a few spot fires popped up outside the perimeter of the Trigo Fire, but crews quickly doused the flames, said fire information officer Deanna Younger.

“A lot of that was due to fire retardant, a line being laid earlier in the day,” she said.

The fire also has burned nine outbuildings and two recreational vehicles. Officials could not say whether anyone had been living in the homes. Two firefighters have suffered minor injuries, Younger said.

Crews were bracing for wind gusts of up to 35 miles per hour and low humidity over the next two days. Younger said extra crews will be working during the evening hours when weather conditions are more favorable.

“Growth potential is high,” she said.

The blaze began April 15 in the Cibola National Forest on the west side of the Manzano Mountains and burned to the east side onto private land and toward the small communities of Manzano and Torreon.

The blaze is about 1 mile west of Manzano and 1.5 to 2 miles northwest of Torreon.

Investigators have pinpointed where the fire began, however they have not determined exactly who did it or how. Fire information officer Dan Bastion said “we’re quite confident it was human-caused.”

Officials had asked people to voluntarily leave about 130 homes around Manzano and Torreon as the fire doubled in size from Sunday afternoon to Monday morning. The evacuations were lifted Tuesday morning.

The fire — burning mainly oak brush and pinon, juniper and ponderosa pine trees — was 36 percent contained and has cost $3.2 million to fight, Younger said.

The fire initially burned in rugged terrain, but now is in “more gentle country where we can use dozers,” Bastion said.

Fire crews on the ground were augmented by air tankers dropping fire retardant, and helicopters to drop buckets of water on the flames, Bastion said.

The Lincoln National Forest has announced it will close nearly all of the forest to public use May 1. Highways and county roads through the Lincoln will remain open, but forest roads, picnic areas and most campgrounds will close due to the high fire danger.

The southern New Mexico forest has been under Stage 2 fire restrictions, which include bans on campfires, driving off road and smoking outdoors.

Meanwhile, the 228,700-acre Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge in central New Mexico closed its bosque areas to public recreation because of extreme fire danger. The closure will be re-evaluated on May 5, and will be lifted or continued as necessary.

National Interagency Fire Center.

New Mexico Fire Information.

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