Ranch fire, high winds force quick response west of gorge

By Cody Hooks
chooks@taosnews.com
Posted 3/4/18

Unusually powerful winds coupled with flames at a ranch west of the Rio Grande Gorge forced wildland firefighters and volunteer crews to stage a quick response. Shortly before 5 p.m. Sunday (March …

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Ranch fire, high winds force quick response west of gorge

Posted

This story was updated Thursday (March 8) at 12:30 p.m.

As wildland firefighters were busy coordinating a response to a breakout of flames Sunday night (March 4), one dubbed the blaze the "Lucky Fire."

"Lucky it didn't get out of hand," he quipped.

Unusually powerful winds coupled with a small fire at a ranch west of the Rio Grande Gorge forced wildland firefighters and volunteer crews from town to stage a quick response in the day's waning light.

A fire was reported shortly before 5 p.m. Sunday at Wolf Springs Ranch, located about five miles west of the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge on U.S. 64, according to chatter on emergency radio channels.

Within an hour, two wildland firefighters with the Carson National Forest were on scene as was a small crew with the Taos Fire Department. Water tenders and brush trucks from Lama Volunteer Fire Department were en route.

"That's what we needed: water and manpower," said one firefighter at the ranch as more water tankers arrived. "It's windy and I don't want this to get out of hand."

Wind speeds around New Mexico, including Red River, topped 58 miles per hour over parts of the weekend, according to the National Weather Service. Much of the state was under the agency's high-wind advisory and fire danger warnings.

The fire was contained to an area about 30 by 50 feet, according to ranch manager David Montoya. He told The Taos News Tuesday (March 6) the ranch was burning some brush a week ago as part of forest thinning and management projects. "Some roots were still hot and ignited with the high winds," he said.

Montoya had to escort fire engines from the main highway to the interior of the ranch because the flames were hidden by the terrain. Fire crews had approximately 3,800 gallons of water to extinguish the fire, which moved from brush into some piñon and juniper trees, according to Taos Central Dispatch.

"I think we'll be okay if we can get one more truck with water to really soak...these hot spots," said a firefighter at about 6:15 p.m. Five minutes later, volunteers from the Hondo-Seco and Rio Fernando fire departments were released to respond to calls closer to Taos.

All but a fraction of 1 percent of the state is experiencing some degree of drought conditions. Taos County's mountain range is among the driest spots, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Federal agencies are preparing for the fire season to start earlier than the usual opening around May.

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