Investigators with the US Forest Service determined that a lightning strike cuased the Medio Fire burning in the Santa Fe National Forest, District Ranger Sandy Hurlocker said in a daily update Thursday evening.
Public Information Officer Mindi Lehew reported the fire at 3,166 acres and 37% contained. There are 260 personnel assigned to the incident.
The firefighting team met the fire with handlines along the Rio Nambe to the north, and the fire moved into the Pacheco Fire burn scar to the northeast.
A failure of the equipment used to drop ping pong balls of fire starter into backburn areas slowed plans to continue backburning operations on the western edge of the fire.
A rogue drone flying over the area also temporarily slowed crew's progress, said Section Operations Chief Buck Wickham, urging the public not to fly drones over the area because they interfere with the planes and helicopters bringing water, fire retardant and fire-starter to the site.
He said it was the second time a drone had flown into the 7-mile-wide "temporary flight restriction area."
"If we see any aircraft in that area, we have to shut our aircraft down immediately. Not finish our mission, not do what the firefighters needed them to do, but go and sit down until we can get control of that airspace again," said Wickham, "so help us out and don't fly drones into that space."
Several people have also reportedly tried to drive down into Pacheco Canyon from the Hyde Park Road.
Intermittent showers late Wednesday night helped cool the fire, said meteorologist Royce Fontenot, however, he noted high temperatures on Thursday quickly reversed the effects of the previous night's precipitation.
Stronger winds pose a challenge for firefighters Thursday, followed by the possibility of strong rains.
Rain on the fire might sound like a godsend in helping to put it out, yet strong rains pose their own challenge.
"We have concerns about that rain," Wickham said, explaining that too much water could put out the low intensity fires crews are igniting along the west edge during backburning operations, without putting out the wildfire itself and forcing crews to change tactics.
There is also a closure order in effect prohibiting members of the public from entering the restricted area, including all Forest Service lands, roads and trails, within an area that is roughly defined by the Rio Nambe Trail #160 on the north, the Borrego Trail #150 and Forest Road 412 on the east, Forest Road 102 on the south and back up the forest boundary line on the west to meet the Rio Nambe Trail #160. Fire managers are asking the public to exercise caution and avoid all areas that could be impacted by the Medio Fire.