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A small fire ignited Thursday in the city watershed.
USDA Forest Service

Fire in Watershed Half Contained

Managers Credit Strong Response for Reining In Flames

June 24, 2016, 8:55 pm

The McClure Fire in the Santa Fe Municipal Watershed is considered 50 percent contained, according to Friday afternoon media advisories, and some of the many resources allocated to that fire have been released. 

Firefighters using GPS to measure the fire Friday morning revised the size of the fire to 7.6 acres after aerial surveys Thursday reported it at 15 acres. As of 4:30 pm Friday, they said the fire had not grown in size. Air operations had been put on hold while hotshot crews worked on the ground on containment and mop-up until about 8 pm Friday. 

The Barillas Lookout Tower in the Pecos/Las Vegas Ranger District of the Santa Fe National Forest first reported smoke from the fire at 12:21 pm on Thursday, June 23. A lightning strike has been blamed for starting the fire, which ignited 3 miles northeast of McClure Reservoir, a key source for the city’s drinking water supply. It caught in steep terrain densely forested with ponderosa pine not yet thinned or treated with prescribed burn to prevent catastrophic wildfire. The fire was considered at high potential for growth initially, but was downgraded to moderate as of Friday afternoon, according to a media advisory. 

As a threat to the Santa Fe Municipal Watershed and a communication site used by the FAA and EMS, it was met with a robust response from aerial crews Thursday afternoon and hotshot ground crews on Friday morning. Santa Fe Fire Department credited “strong work being done” in a Tweet about containment reaching 30 percent by about 1pm.

Ground response included the city-managed Atalaya hand crew, while aerial work saw two fixed-wing aircraft, two heavy air tanks, one single engine air tanker, seven helicopters, three Forest Service engines and multiple city and county engines.

“This fire is a high priority and I think the reflection of that is the resources that are being assigned to it,” Porfirio Chavarria, wildland urban interface specialist for Santa Fe, said Thursday afternoon.

The Forest Service reported the fire as under 30 percent control by 1 pm after hotshot crews completed a perimeter line of the fire and containment was considered sufficient to begin releasing some of the helicopters dropping water to other assignments.   

Rain and lower temperatures followed through Thursday and Friday evening, and winds hovered below 15 mph.

The City of Santa Fe, Forest Service and other management partners in the Greater Santa Fe Fire Shed have authority to conduct prescribed burns and, according to a media advisory from June 24, would plan to do so after this year’s fire season.

New Mexico wildfire managers are dealing with multiple other blazes throughout the state, and even just in the county, with Santa Fe County Fire Department among the crews responding to the Goldmine Fire, which had burned more than 43 acres in the Ortiz Mountains near Madrid. The county fire department reported that fire as about 50 percent contained by noon Friday, with a line around the fire and mop-up operations beginning.

The latest update for the Dog Head Fire, suspected to have been human-caused in the Manzano Mountains east of Albuquerque, was released at 8 am Friday, June 24, and reported that fire at 83 percent contained, having burned 17,912 acres and damaged 24 single residences and 21 other minor structures. An increase in rainfall and humidity was seen as decreasing the probability of ignition. The 625 total personnel working that site were continuing to mop-up fire, holding and patrolling the perimeter, and trying to finish securing the east side of the fire. Managers aimed to have it under control by June 30 and expected no new perimeter growth, despite warmer temperatures in the forecast for Saturday.


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