UPDATED: Rains give firefighters momentum; Carson re-opens

Editor’s note: An earlier posting of this story noted the Carson National Forest was closed; however, according to a press release today, the Carson will re-open July 10.

Recent rains have given firefighters the edge over containment efforts in area fires: The lightning-caused Blanco Fire near Roy is 100-percent contained; the lightning caused Morris Creek Fire on the UU Bar Ranch, Philmont Scout Ranch and state land is 60-percent contained; the human-caused Sardinas Canyon Fire, 18 miles southeast of Taos, is 40-percent contained; and the huge Spring Creek Fire, 5 miles northeast of Ft. Garland, Colorado, is 70-percent contained.

The lightning-caused Emily Fire near Wagon Mound is, at press time, 8-percent contained.

At press time, the the Santa Fe National Forest has re-opened and the Carson National Forest will re-open tomorrow (July 10).

This morning the National Weather Service in Albuquerque predicted, “Western and southern areas will be favored today and Tuesday for afternoon and evening thunderstorms, then we will see an increase in coverage and intensity of the thunderstorms starting Wednesday, but especially from Thursday into the weekend… courtesy of a direct monsoon surge from Mexico, possibly aided by an easterly wave.”

Blanco Fire

The Blanco Fire has burned about 2,100 acres. According to today’s report, the fire is currently boxed in north of Blanco Canyon, south of Emplazado Canyon, and east of the Canadian River. Fire behavior is characterized by smoldering and creeping. The Western and Southern flanks of the fire have had no smoke or fire activity in over a week. Today’s operations will focus on mop-up operations on the Northeast corner where fire is established in a sub drainage south of Emplazado Canyon. Due to the remote location and rough terrain firefighters are implementing tactics that yield a high probability of success and meet land management objectives while allowing for the safety of firefighters. Additional management actions will be further determined by fire activity, weather, and the progression of the fire.

Morris Creek Fire

The Morris Creek Fire is 60-percent contained. The best way to understand containment is to look at current maps. In the maps 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.
According to today’s update, the Morris Creek Fire, which has so far burned 1,620 acres, is expected to continue to dry out until predicted monsoonal moisture arrives at the end of this week. Today the fire will continue to actively burn along the northern perimeter. The fire is burning approximately 50 feet from the bottom of Rayado Creek Drainage. Strategies are in place in the event fire crosses the drainage. Firefighters are completing structure protection for values at risk that are located further north of the drainage.

Weather forecasts continue to include chances for showers and thunderstorms for some parts of New Mexico this week. There is concern for road conditions to change due to debris rolling onto the road from rains near the fire burn scar areas.

Firefighters on Morris Creek Fire (Courtesy Photo)
Sardinas Canyon Fire

Todays report notes, the Sardinas Canyon Fire is 40-percent contained as rain and clouds assist with holding perimeter lines. Additional showers and thunderstorms are predicted today. The Northern New Mexico Type 3 Incident Management Team will be transitioning the incident back to the local unit Tuesday (July 10) at 6 am. The road grader completed rehabilitation on Forest Roads impacted by fire suppression efforts, this will continue today, conditions allowing. Firefighters worked with resource advisors to widen washes for efficient water runoff. Significantly muddy roads prohibited more work from being completed. Any unfinished rehabilitation will be transferred back to the local unit for completion when favorable conditions allow.

A Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) Team has been created to gather information to evaluate potential threats to public safety, life and National Federal System property associated with post-fire conditions. This team is assessing preventative treatments and emergency stabilization for fire related problems such as soil erosion, flooding and increased sedimentation as a result from loss of vegetation. The BAER process begins by determining and implementing actions that will limit threats to human life and safety. Additionally, the team will evaluate how potential flooding will affect roads and developed campsites downstream, such as Upper La Junta and Duran Campgrounds.

A community meeting is planned for 5:30 p.m., Thursday (July 12) at the Peñasco Community Center at 14136 NM-75, Peñasco. Carson National Forest Staff and Fire Managers will be on hand to answer questions about the Sardinas Canyon fire and post suppression activities.

Emily Fire

The Emily Fire, which began June 28 on private land in the Turkey Mountains, 12 miles west of Wagon Mound in Mora County has burned 2,540 acres and threatens an electronic communications site, that includes five buildings along with power lines in the area. Firefighters are taking measures to protect these values at risk. Today’s reports notes a full suppression strategy is being used for the Emily Fire, which is burning in rugged terrain. Periodic burnout operations to help stop the forward progression of the fire will produce additional smoke in the area. The Gila Las Cruces Type 3 Incident Management team is handling operations for this fire. Favorable burnout conditions are expected today which may allow hand and aerial ignition opportunities to continue along the road in Mclamar Canyon on the north, and Arroyo Tierra Blanco on the south. Fire personnel will monitor weather and fuels for any opportunities to bring fire to fire lines in these areas. Crews will continue to hold and monitor the fire lines and internal areas.

Smoke will be visible from Interstate 25 and surrounding communities.

Santa Fe National Forest opens today; Carson Opens tomorrow

Carson National Forest officials announced today the forest will re-open tomorrow with Stage 2 Fire Restrictions. Beginning at 8 a.m. Tuesday (July 10) the public will be allowed entry to all Carson National Forest lands including trails, day-use areas, campgrounds and forest roads — with Stage 2 fire restrictions.

“We looked at the predicted weather patterns, forest-wide fuel moisture, and available firefighting resources,” said Forest Supervisor James Duran. “Given that we received rain and higher humidity, the potential for large wildfires has been reduced. I am comfortable with Stage 2 restrictions.”

Stage 2 fire restrictions prohibit the use of:

  • open flames, including campfires, fires, and wood, coal or charcoal stoves
  • all forms of smoking
  • firearms
  • explosives
  • chainsaws
  • welding

Vehicles are required to have spark arresters, stay on roads, and not park over vegetation.
The area around the Sardinas Canyon fire will remain closed due to ongoing fire activities and for the safety of the public. This closure will include the southern portion of Forest Service Road 76 and the La Junta, Duran and Upper La Junta campgrounds.Fire and area closure restrictions will be strictly enforced on the Forest. Violation of these restrictions carries a mandatory appearance in federal court, consequent fines up to $10,000, and possible jail time.

Complete fire restriction and area closure information can be found on the Carson National Forest website: fs.usda.gov/Carson.

“I want to thank the public for their compliance, awareness and patience during these drought conditions,” said Duran. “Remember, we are still in fire season and under fire restrictions. I ask that you remain vigilant.”

Further south, several days of higher humidity and rain prompted Santa Fe National Forest officials to lift the closure order and stage 2 fire restrictions today for the first time since closing June 1.

Forest personnel request the public’s patience as it will take some time to remove barriers and open gates for forest access Monday. For more information, call the main office at 505-438-5300.

Spring Creek Fire

The Spring Creek Fire is 70-percent contained.
By this morning’s update, the Spring Creek Fire had torched 107,627 acres in southern Colorado. Several communities in and adjacent to the fire in Costlila and Heurfano counties had to be evacuated and the blaze destroyed at least 132 homes.

The fire, which started on June 27, was thoroughly investigated by law enforcement and was determined to be human caused. The suspect has been arrested.

Today’s weather is expected to be similar to yesterday with above normal temperatures. As fuels continue to dry and burn more actively during the burn period, increased fire behavior can be expected. There is also a potential for isolated afternoon showers and thunderstorms, which can cause gusty and erratic outflow winds in any direction.

San Isabel National Forest re-opens

The San Isabel National Forest in Huerfano, Las Animas and Costilla Counties in Colorado, dated July 1, 2018, and signed by Erin Connelly, Forest and Grassland Supervisor,  was lifted yesterday (July 8).

Spring Creek Fire Photos

Flare up on Silver Mountain on July 8. (Courtesy Photo)
Water Drop north of US 160. (Courtesy Photo)
A fawn was seen tucked into a culvert along US 160. (Courtesy Photo)