Residents hope monsoons will bring relief from heat, drought, fires

Even as two fires burn close enough to the Enchanted Circle to affect air quality and a fire in Southern Colorado has swelled to almost 80,000 acres, officials from the national Weather Service in Albuquerque were predicting a gradual uptick in moisture from east to west will result in an uptick in shower and storm coverage beginning Wednesday (July 4). According to the Albuquerque Weather Forecast Office, “Precipitation in central and northern New Mexico during July, August and September 2018 will most likely range from near to above 1981-2010 climatological averages” while “temperatures… will most likely range from near to slightly above average.”

Morris Creek Fire 

The lightning-caused Morris Creek Fire 18 miles west of Springer has burned about 2,000 acres since it began June 29 and is 40 percent contained. According to this morning’s update, the blaze continues burning on the UU Bar Ranch, Philmont Scout Ranch and State Land. Crews completed dozer line on the western side of the fire yesterday while also dealing with spot fire across the containment lines on the northwest side. Additional dozer work was accomplished on the southeast perimeter, however the north and northeast perimeter remain open and fire growth continued to the east and north into steep rough country.

Aided by helicopter water drops, today crews continue to work to protect the Tri State power lines as conditions allow. An initial attack division has been created to deal with potential new starts from afternoon thunderstorms.

Values at risk include the Tri-state powerline, Philmont Scout Ranch, and other private property and structures. Crews made progress Monday on the fire line and will continue today, aided by available aircraft.

Sardinas Canyon Fire

Infrared detail of Sardinas Fire “hot spots”
As of today, the Sardinas Canyon Fire, 18 miles southeast of Taos, has burned about 2,307 acres. That blaze, which began June 24, is 12-percent contained. The fire is still under investigation but officials note it was human caused.According to today’s report, firefighters will continue to utilize previously established dozer lines while continuing to improve and secure the western flank of the fire along the Forest Service 442 road and Forest Road 1889 to the south. Crews will secure and monitor the eastern and northern flanks while patrolling along Forest Road 76. Crews are constantly scouting to look for direct line opportunities.Mora, Chacon, Holman, Angel Fire, Black Lake, Taos, Peñasco, Ranchos De Taos, Talpa, Pot Creek, Tres Ritos, Valle Escondido, and Taos Canyon communities may be impacted by smoke because of prevailing winds. Smoke-sensitive individuals, seniors, children, pregnant persons & people with respiratory or heart disease are encouraged to take precautionary measures. With the increase of fires in the region smoke from other incidents may impact local communities. Information on air quality and protecting your health using the 5-3-1 visibility method can be found online at the New Mexico Department of Health’s website

Blanco Fire

The lightning-caused Blanco Fire, located 5.5 miles west of Roy New Mexico on the Kiowa National Grasslands has torched about 2,100 acres, however, according to today’s report, yesterday the fire area experienced significant rainfall and hail. As a result, that fire is 90-percent contained with fire behavior characterized by smoldering and creeping.

Yesterday’s firefighting resources, which included four engine crews and a helicopter, managed the fires growth utilizing natural rock and cliff bands to keep the fire off of productive range land. The fire is currently boxed in north of Blanco Canyon, south of Emplazado Canyon, and east of the Canadian River. The Western and Southern flanks of the fire have had no smoke or fire activity in the last six days.

Today’s operations focused on mop-up operations on the Northeast corner south of Emplazado Canyon.

Spring Creek Fire

The Ute Park Fire, which torched 36,740 acres (26,387 acres on Philmont Scout Ranch) and destroyed 14 outbuildings on Philmont, has been eclipsed by the Spring Creek Fire in Southern Colorado, 5 miles east of Ft Garland, which as of today has swelled to 78,941 acres and destroyed 104 homes.

As of today, the fire is 5-percent contained. Officials report the change from 10-percent containment yesterday back to 5 percent was because the fire grew thousands of acres, which caused the perimeter to grow as well.

There will be a community meeting in La Veta Wednesday, July 4, at 6 p.m. in the La Veta High School Gym, 109 E. Garland St.

Highway 160 remains closed from La Veta to Ft Garland. Highway 12 is closed in the Cuchara Valley area. Highway 69 is closed from mm 5 to mm 42.

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Colorado news sources report that 52-year-old Jesper Jorgensen is in custody for investigation of arson related to the fire. Jorgensen is a Danish citizen. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Sunday it has placed an immigration detainer on him.

Drought makes the danger extreme

Early in the spring, the National Weather Service issued an “extremely critical” fire outlook for Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, and the U.S. Drought Monitor noted the region was in “exceptional” drought. By July 1, according to a report from CNN, dozens of wildfires were burning in Alaska, California, Colorado and other western states, with meteorologists warning of more blazes due to strong winds and low humidity.