UPDATE: Ute Park residents allowed to return home

Ute Park residents returning home

A Sky Crane Helicopter drops water on a hotspot of the western flank of the Ute Park Fire Tuesday (June 5). (Photo by Mike McMillan, Ute Park Fire PIO)
After one week and one day of a mandatory evacuation, Ute Park residents were allowed to return home today, according to this morning’s update. However, all property access off NM 204 is still closed and under evacuation orders. Please visit the Colfax County website for more information co.colfax.nm.us.

For the time being, US Highway 64 will remain closed for safety reasons. Since breaking out May 31, the fire has consumed 36,740 acres (based on more accurate mapping) but the circle around the fire is closing. Yesterday morning the fire was 35-percent contained but after a day’s work by 614 personnel (15 crews, 8 helicopters, 26 engines, 6 bulldozers and 10 water tenders), by yesterday evening the fire was 66-percent contained.

Hotshot crews successfully held westward movement of the fire and completed a fireline from Ute Park to Cimarroncito Reservoir. Fire activity yesterday was minimal with slow-moving creeping and smoldering.

The cause of the blaze, which started in Ute Park between Eagle Nest Lake and Cimarron on May 31, is still under investigation.

Numbers can be misleading, Ute Park fire officials say, but maps and photos can give a better picture of just what is happening with the Ute Park Fire. The Chronicle spoke with Anna Bouchonville, PIO for the Ute Park Fire, and verified the best way to understand containment is to look at current maps. In the map below, for example, the black line represents areas that have been largely contained, either through firefighter-created fire lines or previous burning. Red areas show open areas along the fire’s perimeter that are not yet contained. Containment decisions are based on protecting “values,” such as buildings and watersheds, and firefighter safety.

This infrared map shows area “hot spots” in red, which have the potential to flare up should weather conditions change.

Official reports continue to emphasize firefighters are working to suppress this fire where they can do so safely and effectively.

Values deemed at risk include “public and firefighter safety, the community of Ute Park, Philmont Scout Ranch, the Cimarroncito and Urraca Watersheds, Cimarron Canyon State Park, private lands, economic benefits from tourism and recreation in the area, and air quality.”

The cause of the blaze, which started in Ute Park between Eagle Nest Lake and Cimarron on May 31, is still under investigation.

611 personnel are fighting the fire including 19 crews, 7 helicopters, 29 engines, 7 bulldozers, 10 water tenders.

Hotshot crews made significant progress constructing direct fire line on the west side of the fire yesterday. Crews continue to construct and hold fire line from Ute Park to Cimarroncito Reservoir to limit the fire’s spread to the west.

Today hotshot crews were focused on tying in a critical piece of this line, located in extremely steep terrain. Helicopters will support crews on the ground by shuttling supplies and dropping water to help cool hotspots as needed.

Firefighters continue to mop-up hotspots near the fire’s edge on the north side of the fire and to monitor and patrol the contained areas of the fire on the east side of the fire.

Workers from the state Department of Transportation install jersey barriers to block debris flows onto the roadway of Highway 64 south of Ute Park Monday (June 4). (Photo by Mike McMillan, Ute Park Fire PIO)
(Photo by Mike McMillan, Ute Park Fire PIO)
Navajo Hotshots retrieve gear from sling net on the fire’s west flank south of Ute Park Tuesday (June 5). (Photo by Mike McMillan, Ute Park Fire PIO)
(Photo by Mike McMillan, Ute Park Fire PIO)
Navajo Hotshots sharpen a chainsaw. (Photo by Mike McMillan, Ute Park Fire PIO)
Navajo Scout Type 2 IA Crewmembers chainsaw and clear brush near the roadway of Highway 64 west of Ute Park Tuesday (June 5). (Photo by Mike McMillan, Ute Park Fire PIO)
Navajo Scout Type 2 IA Crew members clear brush near roadway. (Photo by Mike McMillan, Ute Park Fire PIO)
Task Force Leader Doug Niemynski scrapes fireline around hotspot. (Photo by Mike McMillan, Ute Park Fire PIO)
A Helicopter delivers sling net to the west flank south of Ute Park Tuesday (June 5). (Photo by Mike McMillan, Ute Park Fire PIO)
Sky Crane Helicopter drops water on hotspot on the west flank south of Ute Park Tuesday (June 5). (Photo by Mike McMillan, Ute Park Fire PIO)

No homes burned

 

State Highway 64 (between Eagle Nest Lake and Cimarron Canyon) remains closed for public safety. Firefighters continue to work with collaborators to mitigate and address concerns related to uncontained fire areas, road conditions, flash flooding, and firefighter safety.

Road crews are using large equipment to install Jersey barriers along sections of Highway 64 to help catch rolling and flooding debris. In the Ute Park area, firefighters and cooperators are working along the roadway, chipping thinned vegetation. The highway is still closed to make room for their equipment and give them room to operate safely.

A mandatory evacuation order for the community of Ute Park is still in place and 219 residences remain threatened though no homes have burned. Structure protection measures are in place if needed, including hose lays and sprinklers.

Fourteen outbuildings burned on the Philmont Scout Ranch on May 31.

Cimarron State Park is closed. Eagle Nest Lake State Park is open, but Eagle Nest Lake is closed to boating as firefighting helicopters are utilizing the lake as a water source. The Carson National Forest has temporary closure of the East Side of Valle Vidal Unit as a precaution to potential fire spread – visit bit.ly/2LZtHi3 for details.

At press time, the Carson National Forest was under Stage 2 Fire Restrictions, however, there is a burn ban on all State and Private Lands through the State Forestry Department, a ban on open burning in the unincorporated areas of Colfax County and a burn ban in Angel Fire. Red River also has fire restrictions in place.

Call 511 or visit nmroads.com for current road information. US 64 from Cimarron to Eagle Nest is closed eastbound and westbound from mile marker 287 to mile marker 309 at Cimarron. Road and utility crews are repairing damaged sections of Highway 64 and utility poles impacted by the fire. NM 204 (Cimarron to the Valle Vidal past the Chase Ranch) is closed north and south of mile marker 0 to mile marker 10.

Resources

Use the 5-3-1 visibility method to protect your health from smoke: bit.ly/2jJwwd7. Air Monitoring Resources are available online at bit.ly/2tm1VG6bit.ly/2sqcLJ4, and bit.ly/2Jj0c98.

The Red Cross is operating a shelter at the Eagle Nest Senior Center (74 N. Tomboy Drive).

Wildfires are a No Drone Zone. If you fly, we can’t. More info visit Know Before You Flyknowbeforeyoufly.org

Ute Park Fire Info: inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5820 (air quality info, maps, etc.) and nmfireinfo.com

Colfax County Emergency Management Information: bit.ly/2LbNdXh

Facebook: facebook.com/uteparkfireinfo Twitter: twitter.com/utparkfireinfo

Information: 505-309-0751 — 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.