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Monday, June 14, 2021

Smoke from New Mexico, Arizona fires moves into area

No restrictions for Archuleta County

By Clayton Chaney
Staff Writer

Smoke moved into Pagosa Country this past week due to wildfires in southern Arizona and New Mexico.

A fire broke out near Mescal, Ariz., at approximately 11 a.m. on June 1, according to an incident report from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG).

The report notes that as of 8 a.m. on Wednesday, June 9, 70,066 acres in the area have been affected. The estimated control date of the fire is June 30. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Another fire broke out near Telegraph, Ariz., on Friday, June 4, at approximately 1:30 p.m., according to the NWCG.

According to a NWCG report, as of 7 a.m. on Wednesday, June 9, 76,260 acres in the area have been affected. The estimated containment date is June 20. The fire is believed to be human caused, but is under investigation.

A fire also broke out in the Gila Mountains in southwestern New Mexico at approximately midnight on May 20, according to a report from the NWCG. 

The report notes that as of 7 a.m. on Wednesday, June 9, 45,551 acres in the area had been affected. The cause of the fire is listed as lightning.

The estimated containment date for this fire is July 15.

A human-caused fire broke out in the Wolf Draw region of northern New Mexico, just north of Cuba, N.M., on May 29, according to a NWCG report.

As of 7 p.m. on June 8, the fire had affected 712 acres in the area and 75 percent of the perimeter had been contained.

In an email to The SUN, San Juan National Forest Public Affairs Officer Esther Godson notes that the San Juan National Forest “is in extreme drought with an above normal fire year predicted.”

She notes that the next seven to 10 days, beginning on June 8, are forecasted to be hot, dry and windy with red flag warnings and fire weather watches.

“After a week of these hot, dry conditions – we’ll be in a very critical fire environment. Any new fire starts will exhibit more resistance to control and take more resources to manage,” Godson wrote.

She also explained that with the increase in visitors compounded with the hot and dry weather, the Forest Service is working closely with its local partners to determine when to implement fire restrictions.

“Federal, state, and local fire and emergency managers in the area meet weekly to discuss fire conditions and coordinate decisions. Current conditions and predicted conditions are indicating fire restrictions are recommended,” Godson notes. 

She also explains in the email that regardless of when fire restrictions go into effect, the public is urged to follow best practices to prevent fires, like drowning out campfires with water and a shovel.

According to Godson, almost 90 percent of all wildfires on public lands are started by humans.

Visitors are urged to check current fire dangers and conditions before their visit.

Fire restriction information for the San Juan National Forest can be found online at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/sanjuan/home.

Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Manager Mike LeRoux explained on Wednesday that safe and responsible burning is still allowed under permits as long as there is not a red flag warning in effect.  

He went on to state, “Don’t underestimate the current conditions. There is a perception that it is nice and green right now, but there is a high potential that fuels will burn.”

As of 3 p.m. on Wednesday, June 8, no fire restrictions were in place for the area.

clayton@pagosasun.com

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