Smoke and Bird Updates

Photos R.W.

A brief smoke event with the wind travelling in the same direction as yesterday, but much less fierce, and picking up much less smoke. The Forest Service update tells us that the affected area has grown to 256 acres.

They also include an interesting explanation for yesterday’s photogenic event: “Fire activity was low to moderate throughout the day Saturday until about 5:30 p.m. when a storm cell brought much stronger winds out of the north, drastically increasing fire activity and pushing the fire to the south. The winds also helped create the very visible smoke column in the late afternoon. The blacklining that crews had worked on over the past several days held the fire in spite of the dramatic shift in wind direction and speed. Today, crews on scene continued to blackline the perimeter and look for spot fires. ”

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(Fake) Drama Above and Below and (Illegal Leaks of) Fire and Water

Photos R.W.

Update SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST

The Peggy Fire as seen from a mesa in Red Rocks.

Do not believe what you hear or what you see. You might have read on these pages chilling warnings against life threatening  walls of storm water rushing down arroyos and calm reassurances about low intensity puffs of smoke lingering through the morning. Well…

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Still Smoldering up on Peggy

Photos R.W.

The fire on Peggy Mesa, in its fourth day this Friday is making some slow progress and has grown from 11 acres yesterday to 35 acres today. There have been no more updates from the Forest Service since this morning. The air is pretty still and the smoke appears to be rising and drifting in a northeasterly direction.

Here are a few images of the rising smoke as seen from US Highway 4 this afternoon:

 

 

Peggy Fire Update

By Julie Anne Overton

SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST

The smoke as seen last Tuesday, the day the fire started. Since then there has been some heavy rain in parts of the Jemez Valley, but apparently it did not drench the area, Peggy Mesa, where this low intensity fire continous to smolder.

Update on the Update:    Smoke has increased, with impacts expected in Gilman and Jemez Pueblo. Flame lengths of 1-2 feet are evident.  Afternoon and evening higher humidities continue to moderate the fire activity.  The fire is being monitored with daily patrols.

 

Start Date: July 18, 2017

Cause: Lightning

Size:  Approximately 11 acres

Location: On the Jemez Ranger District of the Santa Fe National Forest, the fire is located on Peggy Mesa approximately 2 miles northwest of Gilman Tunnels.

Vegetation:  The fire is burning in piñon pines, juniper, ponderosa pine, and oak scrub brush.

Current Situation:  A lightning strike ignited a single standing dead tree (snag) that spread the fire into surrounding slash and nearby dead and down timber.  The low-intensity fire is creeping and smoldering.  The fire is in monitor status.

Smoke/Air Quality:  Smoke may be visible from the US Route 550, and NM Hwy 4 at Jemez Pueblo.  It is not generating a lot of smoke or affecting many communities. Individuals sensitive to smoke, as well as those with respiratory or heart disease, are reminded to take precautionary measures.  Air quality information and health protection measures are available online at the New Mexico Department of Health’s website:  https://nmtracking.org/fire.

Fire Information:  Fire updates are posted on the New Mexico Fire Information website at nmfireinfo.com and on @SantaFeNF and www.facebook.com/SantaFeNF.  Additional information can be obtained from the Jemez Ranger District at 575-829-3535.

 

Call to Drone Operators for Situational Awareness

Julie Anne Overton

SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST

Photo Tom Hoefen/USGS, Public Domain.

The annual aerial survey for insect and disease outbreaks on the 1.6- million-acre Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) could begin as early as Monday, July 17, and continue intermittently through Aug. 18.

Forest Service airplanes and helicopters regularly fly over private, state, and National Forest System lands at low altitudes to perform a variety of natural resource management missions, including insect and disease surveys, remote sensing to acquire aerial images and data, and firefighting.Continue reading

Cajete Fire Declared Controlled at Last

SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST

The Cajete Fire on the Santa Fe National Forest’s Jemez Ranger District was declared controlled at 12:45 p.m. Sunday, July 16, thanks to recent moisture that arrived with the monsoon season.  The 1,412-acre Cajete Fire, which started on June 15 from an abandoned campfire, has been 96% contained since June 21. 

Incident command determined that the uncontained 4% of the fire perimeter was not safe for firefighters to enter.  The area near Los Griegos Peak is in the burn scar from the 2011 Las Conchas Fire and still contains multiple hazard trees or “snags” which can fall without warning.  The burn scar held the fire in place without exposing firefighters to unnecessary risk.

The June 20 order which closed all lands, roads and trails within the Cajete Fire perimeter remains in place until July 31, unless it is rescinded earlier.  The closure order includes a segment of the Las Conchas Trail (#137) between the last bridge coming from the Las Conchas Trailhead (before the trail ascends) and the East Fork Trailhead.

Stage 1 Fire Restrictions Lifted

SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST

Thanks to recent precipitation and decreasing fire danger, the Santa Fe National Forest has lifted campfire and smoking restrictions on Friday, July 14, at 8:00 a.m.  The forest implemented Stage 1 fire restrictions on June 23 based on dry conditions and higher-than-normal temperatures.

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Forest Plan Revision Open Houses to Take Place in Santa Fe and Pecos.

SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST

These Open Houses are intended to keep the public involved between our more formal rounds of public meetings and we will keep you informed when we are ready for the next round of evening and technical public meetings. If you can’t make it to an Open House, please call (505-438-5442) or email (santafeforestplan@fs.fed.us) us with any questions.

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Gathering Monsoon Both Decreases and Increases Fire Danger

A couple of lightning caused fires that have broken out currently suggest a different pattern of fire danger emerging. The forests are still dry and ready to ignite at any carelessly flicked cigarette butt or abandoned campfire, but the recent weather has brought with it some increased moisture in the forests together with instances of dry lightning storms.

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Know-Before-You-Go and Celebrate the Fourth in the National Forest

By Julie Anne Overton

SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST

The Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) is ready to welcome the large number of visitors who traditionally celebrate Independence Day weekend in the great outdoors.  But if you decide to take advantage of the recreational opportunities on the SFNF, it’s always good to “Know Before You Go” (https://www.fs.fed.us/visit/know-before-you-go).

The SFNF remains in Stage 1 fire restrictions.  Campfires are allowed only in developed campgrounds and picnic areas with established fire rings and grills.  Smoking is restricted to enclosed vehicles or buildings, developed recreation sites and areas cleared of all flammable materials.  Fire prevention teams will be patrolling, and anyone who violates Stage 1 restrictions will be ticketed.

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They’re Back and This Time They’re Hungry – Tent Caterpillars Munching Aspens Again        

 

By Julie Anne Overton

SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST

If you drive up NM State Highway 475 (the road to the Santa Fe Ski Basin) anytime soon, you will probably notice something going on in the aspen groves that create one of the most popular vistas on the Santa Fe National Forest.

To the casual observer, the aspens may appear to be dying.  But those bare branches signal the return of the western tent caterpillars, native defoliators whose larvae feed on a variety of hardwood trees species.  At least here in New Mexico, they seem to be particularly fond of aspen.

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Off-Road Vehicles Will be Impounded if Found Riding Within Designated Wilderness Areas.

SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST

Call them what you will – four-wheelers, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) or utility vehicles (UTVs) – but remember that off-road vehicles of any kind are always prohibited within congressionally designated wilderness areas.

This past weekend, ATV tracks were observed within the San Pedro Parks Wilderness on the Coyote Ranger District of the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF).   San Pedro Parks is one of the original wilderness areas created by the Wilderness Act of 1964, which set aside “primeval” federal land to be managed as “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”

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Final Update and Some Observations on the Cajete Fire from the New Mexico Fire Information and Santa Fe National Forest Pages

Photo SFNF.
Under the leadership of Type 3 Incident Commander Matt Armantrout, firefighters today are mopping-up hot spots, gridding for residual heat, and addressing fire suppression repair needs, including removing hazardous trees along Highway 4. Crews and overhead personnel are being demobilized and re-assigned to other incidents. Command of the Cajete Fire will transition to a Type 4 organization and the Jemez Ranger District on Tuesday.

Isolated smoke may be visible as concentrations of heavy fuels smolder within the fire perimeter, though no further fire growth is anticipated. Hot and dry conditions persist, with a chance of rain and thunderstorm activity possible for the fire area.

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El Cajete Fire is contained at 96 percent.

Joshua Szopinski

SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST

There are still 359 personnel on the site. They consist of 3 Type 1 Crews, 4 Type 2 crews, assisted by 14 engines, 1 dozer, 4 water tenders, 2 Type 1 helicopters, 2 Type 2 helicopters, and 1 Type 3 helicopter

On Thursday, June 22, California Team 3 will transition to a Type 3 organization that will patrol the fire. As containment objectives are met, some crews and overhead are being demobilized or re-assigned to other incidents.

Currently crews on the fireline anticipate minimal fire activity. They continue mop-up and fire suppression repair, working to remove signs of suppression activity and prevent erosion.

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Cajete Fire Burn Area Closed to the Public until July 31

The Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) today issued a closure order for the approximately 1,400 acres on the Jemez Ranger District burned by the Cajete Fire.  The restricted area includes:

  • all lands, roads and trails within the fire perimeter (depicted on the closure map),
  • Trail #137 between the last bridge coming from the Las Conchas Trailhead (before the trail ascends) and the East Fork Trailhead, and
  • segments of Forest Road (FR) 270 south of the fire and FR 4G, 4GA and 4GB on the northwestern point of the burned area.

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Nukes and  Marshmallows

By R.W.

Last year, for the third year in a row, the Energy Department and the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board listed the possibility of an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction (criticality) in our neighboring town of Los Alamos as one of the most pressing problems facing the nuclear weapons program.

In a field of zero tolerance for mistakes, the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) appears to be performing a high risk act at great cost not just to its employees, as in the possibility offered above, but also to neighboring communities, the country’s taxpayers and possibly to the whole planet. We in the Jemez are one of those neighboring communities, and liable to be among the first to suffer the consequences of the culture of neglect that pervades the lab. There is no emergency notification system for all of us that live in the backyard of the lab, we need to be prepared for surprises, but it would at least be nice to know what these might be.

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More Abandoned Campfires in Santa Fe National Forest

There will be another community meeting tonight at 6 p.m. June 18, 2017 at the Jemez Mountain Baptist Church, 6 Riverview Court, La Cueva, NM. to give the community latest information on the El Cajete Fire.

It has been determined the fire was started by an abandoned campfire. The carelessness of these campers has disrupted peoples’ lives, cost the taxpayer millions of dollars and endangered the lives of hundreds of firefighters. Three more abandoned campfires that needed the attention of fire crews in the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) were reported on the New Mexico Fire Information site. This is happening as smoke billows over the mountains and over 300 firefighters battle the nearby 1.367 El Cajete blaze.

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El Cajete Fire 55 Percent Contained

Yesterday, at 6:00 p.m. the Santa Fe National Forest issued the following update on the El Cajete Fire:

Location:  The fire is burning in the Jemez Ranger District on the Santa Fe National Forest, on both sides of NM Highway 4 along the southern boundary of the Valles Caldera National Preserve.  The Cajete Fire started approximately one mile northeast of Vallecitos de los Indios.  The fire area runs along the East Fork of the Jemez River and is to the west of the burn scars from the 2011 Las Conchas Fire and the 2013 Thompson Ridge Fire.

Start Date: June 15, 2017     Cause: Abandoned campfire    Size: 1,315 acres     Containment: 55%

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Public Meeting on the Cajete Fire Tonight in La Cueva.

Fire Information

EMNRD-FORESTRY DIVISION

New Mexico Wildfire Update for the Cajete Fire.
6/17/17, 11:40 AM

There will be a public meeting on the Cajete Fire tonight in La Cueva.

When:  6 p.m. today, Saturday, June 17, 2017

Where:  Jemez Mountain Baptist Church in La Cueva.  (The address is 6 Riverview Ct, Jemez Springs, NM 87025 but the Church is in La Cueva.)

The fire is currently 1,315 acres. Evacuations remain in place for several communities, including Ruby Holt Plat, Los Griegos and Sierra de Los Pinos.

Updates will be posted on the New Mexico Fire Information website at NMFireInfo.com and the New Mexico State Forestry Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/NewMexicoStateForestry/

Jemez Fire Slowing but Extent of Blaze Increased to 1,315 Acres     

By R.W.

Photo R.W.

Most of the blaze so far has affected lower level growth, just as in the Pino fire of 2014, shown above, and not been a high intensity crown-top fire.

 

It is still early to tell, but the El Cajete Fire seems to have run into a dead end with burn scars around it, not that much new fuel to feed on and is showing first signs of slowing down.  If the wind does not change direction and pick up too much, the acreage that is currently ablaze might mark most of the extent of this fire.

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P’êpô?

By R.W.

Mountain Fish.

When I hear the Jemez speak their amazing sounding language I can rarely separate a single word from the flow, let alone catch any of the meaning of what is being said. I have once or twice been coached, by bored Jemez looking for distraction, to utter simple greetings or pronounce the odd name place, only to have my attempts greeted with either puzzlement or total amusement.

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El Cajete Fire Continues to Burn

By R.W.

Photo R.W.

The wind has changed direction from overnight, but otherwise no notable improvements in the behavior of the El Cajete Fire has been observed, with 0 percent of the over 700 acre blaze contained. The good news is that no human casualties or damage to property have been reported, with firefighters taking measures to save structures in the path of the flames. They have been conducting back burns between the fire and people’s homes to create protection zones.

Air temperatures are high, and humidity levels low; forecasts call for these conditions to continue into the foreseeable future, leaving no option but “full suppression” for the fire on part of the firefighting crews. The fire continue to head in a southeasterly direction, just as it was yesterday. Also, just as through most of the day yesterday, NM Highway 4 remains closed from its intersection with  NM Highway 126, above which, on the stretch leading to Valle Grande, the worst fire conditions are occurring.

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El Cajete Fire Still Spreading

By R.W.

Photo R.W.

Heavy smoke drifted down into the Jemez Valley overnight and early this Friday morning.

With the first light of dawn fire crews are back at the El Cajete Fire site. At the moment the fire is reported to have reached the area just west of previous devastation caused by the 2011 Las Conchas Fire, taking out yet another still unburned area of the Jemez Mountain forests. At last report the fire was still 0 percent contained, at about 700 acres and drifting in a southeasterly direction. About 200 hundred people have been evacuated from the area and about 300 structures are considered to be at risk. Thick smoke drifted down the Jemez Valley overnight and into this morning.

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Forest Fire in the Jemez, Highway 4 Closed, Evacuations Taking Place

Update: Julie Anne Overton of the Santa Fe National Forest reports that the Cajete Fire is spreading fast and had reached 600 acres by 6 p.m. About 300 structures, mostly homes, are at risk. The blaze is still about 20 miles from Los Alamos, but burn scars from previous fires in the area may keep it from hitting the city.

 Communities along N.M. 4 are still being evacuated, including Los Griegos, Sierra los Pinos and Ruby Hole. Visitors and employees of the Valles Caldera National Preserve west of Los Alamos were also being evacuated.

State Police have closed N.M. 4 between N.M. 126 and  N.M. 501 and it is expected to remain closed through the night.

This map courtesy of . The moving east surrounded by old burn scars but, there is still timber to feed on.

Smoke was first reported to Santa Fe Dispatch at 10:47 a.m. So far the fire, now called the Cajete Fire, is 0 percent contained, estimated at 100 acres, spreading  fast and moving to the east with high growth potential affecting mostly ponderosa pine with some mixed conifer and aspen on the north slopes.

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Another Rough Weekend on the Jemez Ranger District and Vandalism at the Gilman Tunnels

By Julie Anne Overton

SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST

The Gilman Tunnels.

Sometimes called the Albuquerque metropolitan area’s “backyard” because of its proximity to the state’s largest city, the Jemez Ranger District on the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) hosts thousands of visitors on any given weekend between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends.

Unfortunately, a small minority of those visitors can cause huge problems for the forest.

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Red Flag Warning Due to Strong Wind and Low Humidity

Another day, another flag.

The National Weather Service warns that a classic mid June break-down of the upper level ridge pattern is shaping up for today and tomorrow (whatever that means). Humidity is expected to be low and wind speeds high.

The red flag warning started  10 a.m. this morning and will continue  to 9  p.m.  Monday.

The forecast calls for the high pressure to continue to dominate the region today, bringing with it dry, windy, and unseasonably warm conditions for most of New Mexico. Temperatures will begin to cool slightly on Tuesday as an upper level weather system moves through. Temperatures are expected to return to above normal by Thursday and remain there through the remainder of the week.

Any kind of outdoor burning is not recommended. There is no moisture in the forecast for the Jemez area over the next few days.

Initiative to Prevent Drone Incursions over Wildland Fires

Building on recent initiatives to prevent privately operated Unmanned Aircraft Systems (drones) from interfering with Federal, State, and local wildland firefighting activity, the Department of the Interior announced today that it is expanding and enhancing its wildfire location data-sharing program for 2017. The new service being offered is called “Current Wildland Fires” and is accessible through the Geoplatform ArcGIS Online Organization.

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Dogs Welcome on Santa Fe NF, But Owners Have Responsibilities

By Julie Anne Overton

SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST

Last week, a visitor to the Santa Fe National Forest was resting on a rock by the trail after hiking up Tesuque Peak Road from the Aspen Vista Picnic Site.  His idyllic afternoon took a turn for the worse when an 80-pound pit bull – running free – charged him with teeth bared.  The hiker had the wherewithal to thrust his walking stick between his face and the dog’s jaws.  Then the dog took another try, knocking the 74-year-old 150-pound man off the rock.

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Not Burning Yet

 

Writing for the New Mexico Political Report Laura Paskus reports that in Santa Fe National Forest, officers found 41 abandoned or unattended campfires over Memorial Day weekend, and of that number, on Monday alone, 19 were in the Jemez.  The total for the Jemez for this year is 49 already.

It appears that they were all safely dealt with, the holiday weekend is behind us, and no palls of smoke are visibly rising from the mountains. Thank you Forest Service for dealing with this.