Updated May 18 at 1 p.m..
Firefighters from Taos and Hondo Seco fire departments extinguished a brush fire near Millicent Rogers Museum in El Prado around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday night (May 16), while multiple others ignited in suspicious succession around Taos County.
By 11:30 p.m., volunteer firefighters had responded to 13 fires spread out across the county, according to Anthony Martinez, deputy fire chief for the Taos Fire Department. Several of the fires were in the Ranchos area south of Taos.
Firefighters suspect an arsonist might have set some of the fires, Martinez said.
The fires rolled out Wednesday night in quick succession with more than two dozen volunteer firefighters from Taos, Hondo/Seco and Rio Fernando extinguishing one blaze only to be told about another. The fires all started in the brush alongside roads, but a few were close to houses and other structures. The fires ranged from 900 square feet to about an acre in size, Martinez said.
"We were lucky we didn’t lose any structures last night," Martinez said.
Around 11 p.m., a dispatcher said that a female arson suspect was spotted leaving the plaza area of Ranchos de Taos, not long after another blaze had started in the area. The suspect is believed to be driving a gray Toyota Tacoma last seen near Chamisa Road in Taos around 11:20 p.m.
After 10 p.m., a first responder reported that the fire on Millicent Rogers had been put out, with no damage caused to the museum. A caller said the fire had started somewhere near the roadway, according to Taos Central Dispatch reports.
Meanwhile, a dispatcher called on support from Rio Fernando Fire Department, asking additional personnel to remain on standby for at least two other fires that were also reported in Arroyo Seco. By 11 p.m., one of the fires in Arroyo Seco had been put out.
Minutes later, a caller reported the fire in Ranchos and described a female suspect they said may have started the fire.
In Ranchos, fires began cropping up every few hundred yards along Camino Bajo de La Loma, La Morada Road, Camino Caballo and El Tros Road, Martinez said. One by one the all-volunteer crews plus engines and tanker from three stations – including fulltime firefighters at Taos Fire who become volunteers after 5 p.m. – contained the fires before they could spread.
No damage or injuries were reported.
Law enforcement are continuing to search for the suspect.
Fire risks across the county are high as drought deepens and strong daytime winds continue. “It’s dry. Hope everyone is careful," Martinez said. "We’re gearing up for a busy season.”
This is a developing story. For updates, check back here at taosnews.com.