Firefighters make big headway taming Ute Park Fire

Ute Park evacuation lifted; residents return home

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Firefighters continued to rein in the week-old Ute Park Fire, calling the 36,740 acre fire 66 percent contained in a Friday morning (June 8) update.

Ute Park residents were allowed to return home for the first time in several days as a mandatory evacuation order was lifted at 10 a.m. Friday.  

But U.S. 64 remains closed between Eagle Nest and Cimarron for safer access for firefighting equipment safer and due to flash flooding concerns if rain falls on the burn scar near the highway. Road crews are installing concrete Jersey barriers along sections of U.S. 64 to help catch rolling and flooding debris.

The cause of the blaze remains unknown and under investigation. 

The National Weather Service in Albuquerque issued a severe storm risk warning Friday morning for north central New Mexico including Taos to Raton, with lightning, flooding, hail and high winds possible throughout the region. 

A total of 618 personnel including 15 crews, eight helicopters, 26 engines, six bulldozers and 10 water tenders are currently working to extend containment lines around the fire. 

Although the fire threatened nearly 300 homes in nearby communities early on, no residences were burned. A total of 14 outbuildings in Philmont Scout Ranch burned during the fire's first day, but no one was injured and the ranch staff were evacuated to Springer. 

Cimarron State Park remains closed but Eagle Nest Lake State Park is open. 

Fire officials will hold a community meeting at 5 p.m. Friday night for Ute Park residents only at the Ute Park Fire Department. The meeting will be livestreamed online at facebook.com/uteparkfireinfo.

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