UPDATE: Ute Park Fire at 36,800 acres, 30% contained

Officials expect new flareups; area residents still under mandatory evacuation

The Ute Park Wildfire grew slightly today but so did the firefighter’s containment efforts, according to this morning’s update from Bea Day, Incident Commander for the Southwest Area Incident Management Team #1. Fire activity today was limited to isolated flare-ups and smoldering. A high pressure system is persisting over the region and conditions are expected to become hotter and drier through the week. The fire’s cause is still under investigation.

The evacuation order for Cimarron and the surrounding area was lifted yesterday. A community meeting is planned for today at 4 p.m. Additional community meetings are also being planned.

Power was restored to the community of Ute Park on Monday but a mandatory evacuation order for that community is still in place where 219 structures remain threatened. Firefighters are completing structure protection measures, setting up hose lays and sprinklers systems around the community.

Total resources for the fire include 598 personnel, including 15 crews, 8 helicopters, 29 engines, 5 bulldozers, 9 water tenders.

Seven hotshot crews are seeking opportunities to build a fire line on the fire’s west flank in steep and rugged terrain. Helicopters will be supporting firefighters on the ground with dropping water, shuttling food and supplies, etc. Firefighters are also scouting and planning for contingency lines.

Firefighters are building a fire line directly on the fire’s south side in the Cathedral Rock area to help minimize impacts to the Cimarroncito and Urraca Watersheds. Firefighters continue hot spotting and securing the fire’s north flank, where fire activity is also limited by the 2002 Ponil Fire burn scar and lighter fuels. Firefighters continue patrolling the fire’s east and south flanks and mopping-up hot spots. A spike camp is being set up at the Philmont Scout Ranch to better support firefighters and minimize travel times.

Firefighters are working to suppress this fire where they can do so safely and effectively. Values at risk include public and firefighter safety, the community of Ute Park, the 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.

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.

June 5 Update

Previous fire updates

Two informational community meetings were held yesterday in Eagle Nest and Angel Fire. In addition to the headway gained due to Sunday’s rain, increased containment on the Ute Park Fire was credited to successful burnout operations on the fire’s east and south flanks.

Firefighters continued to construct a fire line in the Ute Park area to protect structures in the area. Hotshot crews constructed a fire line and suppressed hotspots in Bear Canyon, and will continue working northeast, aided by the 2002 Ponil Fire burn scar and natural barriers in the area.

At 7:23 p.m. Sunday, officials reported the Ute Park Wildfire had grown to 36,083 Acres, however, its perimeter was 23-percent contained “due to higher humidity, cloud cover and rain.”

Additional, reporting officials predicted, “Overnight the humidity will recover nicely minimizing overnight spread of fire” but “a drying trend will lower the fine dead fuel moisture allowing for more fire activity.”

The fire’s cause is still under investigation. and about 500 personnel are battling the blaze.

In a 9:15 p.m. update June 1, Wendy Mason, Wildfire Prevention & Communications Coordinator for New Mexico State Forestry reported, “Approximately 14 outbuildings have burned on the Philmont Scout Ranch. Currently 296 structures are threatened in the community of Cimarron, which remains under a mandatory evacuation order. Philmont Scout Ranch staff have also evacuated. There are no scouts currently at the camp.”

The following video of Cimarron Village Councilor Matthew Gonzales was taken Thursday morning at about 9:15 a.m.:

Posted by Shawn Carter- Jeffrey on Friday, June 1, 2018

From the Village of Eagle Nest Facebook page: “Eagle Nest Senior Center has been set up as an emergency shelter for Ute Park Fire evacuees. Thank you to the American Red Cross (Lucas) for your assistance!”
Kelly Shriver Koehlinger posted Eagle Nest is hosting 800 to 1,300 firefighters at Eagle Nest Elementary/Middle School. “Please feel free to bring donations of homemade goodies,snacks and drinks (we have plenty of water). Drop off at north bus entrance at Eagle Nest school.”

Whittington Center has also offered to house evacuees at no charge. Call. 575-445-3615. Angel Fire Resort is also free rooms at the Lodge at Angel Fire Resort, according to PR Director Krysty Ronchetti. “Additionally, there are private homes, condos and the RV Resort that are being offered at heavily discounted rates.… Call 575 377 4365 for help.”

Philmont Scout Ranch officials reported on Facebook, “There are no participants on the property at this time and all staff have been accounted for. We greatly appreciate our first responders for keeping our community safe.”

Area firefighters are assisting with the blaze. Angel Fire Fire Chief John Murtagh told The Chronicle, “Angel Fire sent a strike team consisting of a type 3 Engine, a type 6 Engine, and a Water tender with 7 personnel. Eagle Nest sent a type 6 engine and a water tender and I don’t how many people. [The Moreno Valley Fire Department] is holding apparatus and personnel to help cover the valley.”

The Red River Miner reported, “The Town of Red River has fire crew on the scene, and staged down south near Ruidoso.

Hail Holy Smoked BBQ & More owners John and Wendy Hail of Angel Fire reported Friday, “We are closed today so that we may cater to the firefighters and Cimarron. We need several large ice chest for cater food for firefighters. Drop off at Holy Smoked BBQ. Write your name and phone on them.”

Wendy Hails said, “We fed 140 people for breakfast and 140 for lunch today. Tonight we will be feeding 205 and we are set for 300 for breakfast in the morning.”

Helicopter with water bucket leaving Eagle Nest. I heard they were dipping water from EN Lake earlier, but then it got too windy to safely dip water. (Courtesy photo, Marcy Archer)

The following is from a Facebook Crisis Response Page: “The ZIP codes impacted by the evacuations are 87749 and 87714. Reports indicate that the fire is threatening over 150 structures, with 12 structures already destroyed. US-64 has been closed in both directions. No injuries have been reported. An evacuation center has been set up at the Eagle Nest Senior Center, located at 74 N Tomboy Dr. Another evacuation center was set up at Cimarron Elementary & Middle School, but it was unclear if it would remain open with mandatory evacuations in Cimarron. Local businesses offering free lodging for evacuees include the Laguna Vista Lodge, The Retreat at Angel Fire, and the NRA Whittington Center. Winds in the area are from the northwest at seven miles per hour and relative humidity is at 12 percent.”

 

Additional updates can be found at nmfireinfo.com.

 

Editor’s note: Thanks to area residents for their valuable photos and videos. This story will be updated as new updates come in. Call 575-770.2430, email egoins@sangrechronicle.com or message on Facebook with any pertinent information.

 

Russell Church of Red River took this video soon after the blaze started:

Posted by Russell Church on Thursday, May 31, 2018

Photo taken in Cimarron Canyon
Photo from Ute Park soon after the blaze began
Ute Park
View from the Cimarron School
Cimarron, New Mexico
(Photo by Jill Werhane of Cimarron)
from Whittington Center
View from Eagle Nest, New Mexico
Eagle Nest
Near Angel Fire
Another image from Chronicle reader Sandra Loubet