(Originally published at 1:02 p.m. MDT June 1, 2018)
This satellite photo shows smoke from three fires at 12:32 p.m. MDT June 1, 2018. Two of the fires are in New Mexico, the Ute Park Fire and the Buzzard Fire. Both are being spread rapidly by strong winds which makes the smoke plume long and narrow.
In southwest Colorado there appears to be a new fire, possibly north of Durango. I don’t believe it is the Horse Park Fire. Update at 1:34 p.m. MDT June 1, 2018. We just confirmed the smoke in Southwest Colorado is from a new fire about 12 miles north of Durango, the 416 Fire.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Steve. Typos or errors, report them HERE.
The weather forecast for Friday afternoon indicates the potential for very rapid growth of this dangerous fire near Cimarron
Above: Map showing the location of the Ute Park Fire at 2:23 a.m. MDT June 1, 2018. Wildfire Today.
(UPDATED at 2:31 p.m. MDT June 1, 2018)
Fire officials report that the Ute Park fire, burning on private land on both sides of Highway 64 in Northeast New Mexico, has burned an estimated 16,500 acres. The communities of Ute Park and the Village of Cimarron are under mandatory evacuation orders.
(Originally published at 8:44 a.m. MDT June 1, 2018)
(UPDATED at 10:08 a.m. MDT June 1, 2018)
The Ute Park Fire in northeast New Mexico grew very quickly after it was reported at 2:10 p.m. MDT on Thursday 27 miles northeast of Taos. Now well established between Eagle Nest and Cimarron, it is burning on both sides of highway 64, which is closed.
The village of Cimarron (population about 900) and the area around Hummingbird Lane are under evacuation orders. There is a voluntary evacuation in place for Ute Park.
Our very unofficial estimate of the size, based on satellite data from 2:23 a.m. MDT June 1, is that at that time it had burned approximately 12,000 acres.
According to New Mexico Fire Information, approximately 12 unoccupied, non-residential structures at the Philmont Scout Ranch in the Cimarroncita area were destroyed. Another 150 structures remain threatened.
About three hours after the first orders were placed for the fire Bea Day’s Type 1 Incident Management Team was requested. It is unusual for a Type 1 team to be ordered that soon after a fire starts, and is an indication of the rapid rate of spread and the potential of this fire. The team will in-brief at 3 p.m. on Friday.
Soon after it started two very large air tankers (VLAT) were dispatched. By the end of they day the additional aircraft orders included six large air tankers, four helicopters, and Colorado’s MultiMission Aircraft.
Northeast New Mexico is under a Red Flag Warning for Friday. The forecast for the fire area, which is at 7,000 to 8,000 feet, is about as bad as it can get — sustained 25 mph southwest winds gusting between 31 and 36, temperature in the low 80s, and 6 percent relative humidity. These conditions could be very conducive to rapid fire growth to the northeast. Depending on the exact wind direction the fire could seriously threaten Cimarron. Under these conditions it is unlikely that firefighters will be able to do much more than anchor the heel of the fire and perhaps do some structure protection where property owners have already prepared defensible space by clearing away debris and other flammable materials, and are using fire-resistant materials for landscaping and construction.
A fire that straddles the Mexican border in the boot heel of New Mexico has burned thousands of acres. During a satellite overflight at 2:23 a.m. MDT Friday most of the fire was in Mexico but it was well established in the United States.
Our very unofficial estimate based on satellite data put it at approximately 5,000 acres early Friday morning. It was still very active at 2:23 a.m. local time.
The San Luis Fire is 41 miles south of Animas, NM and about 2 miles south of the OK Bar Fire that burned a couple of weeks ago. It is possible that this new fire could burn into the southern edge of the OK Bar Fire.
Above: Map of OK Bar Fire. The red line was the perimeter at 2229 MDT April 28, 2018. The yellow line was the perimeter about 20 hours before.
The OK Bar Fire in Southern New Mexico consumed another 7,817 acres Saturday to bring the total up to 37,067. Most of the growth was on the south side where it is now 8 miles north of the international border.
The area is under a Red Flag Warning that expires Monday night. Forecasters expect 25 to 35 mph southwest winds with gusts to 45 mph or higher and relative humidities reaching into the single digits. Strong southwest winds will continue through mid week.
The OK Bar Fire is not being fully suppressed and information about the incident is not easy to find. It is still not listed at InciWeb or on the official fire information site for New Mexico. Even though it has been growing by thousands of acres each day since it started April 22 the national situation report keeps saying, “Last narrative report unless significant activity occurs.”
Above: 3D map of the OK Bar Fire looking north, showing the perimeter at 3:06 a.m. MDT April 28, 2018.
A wildfire that is not getting much attention has burned over 29,000 acres in Southern New Mexico. The OK Bar Fire has a Type 4 Incident Commander assigned, the second lowest level for an IC, and 32 other personnel. It is in the southern panhandle of the state 21 miles south of Animas and has grown to within 9 miles of the Mexican border.
The fire is being managed by New Mexico State Forestry using a less than full suppression strategy. Fires not being suppressed do not receive the same exposure from the public agencies as conventional blazes, and this one may get even less in the next few days. After it grew by almost 5,000 acres on Friday, the national Situation Report for Saturday described the fire like this:
Extreme fire behavior. Last narrative report unless significant activity occurs.
Following the expansion on the south end Friday, the situation is not likely to improve much in the near future. The area is under a Red Flag Warning Saturday. On Sunday and Monday the wind speed will increase each day, gusting out of the southwest above 30 mph.
The OK Bar Fire started April 22 and is burning on the Diamond A and Gray Ranches. It is expected to continue to move south over the Center Creek Mountains and east towards the Cowboy Rim/ Timber Lake Mountains.
Above: Operations Section Chief Rocky Gilbert. Screenshot from Incident Management Team video.
On Monday firefighters were able to hold some of the perimeter on two fires in western New Mexico, the Bluewater and Diener Canyon Fires, which have burned 2,532 and 6,682 acres respectively.
Soon after it started April 12 there were reports that the Diener Canyon Fire started from an escaped prescribed fire on the Cibola National Forest. Then on April 15 the Forest Service issued a statement saying “the exact cause of the Diener Canyon Fire is currently being investigated.” Today, April 16, the Forest Service is reporting that “fire investigators have determined that multiple spot fires from the Redondo Prescribed Burn started the Diener Canyon Fire”.
The Diener Canyon Fire is burning on Mount Sedgwick within an old fire scar from 2004. The Bluewater fire is approximately 4 miles north of the Diener Canyon Fire on Salitre Mesa.
Sunday firefighters continued the burnout operation on the east flank of the Diener Canyon Fire, along Forest Road (FR) 425. The burnout resulted in a wide containment line, as six to ten inch flames slowly consumed light to moderate forest vegetation. This line is designed to prevent any fire from moving to the east toward Bluewater Village and La Jara subdivision.
Fire crews completed confinement lines on the northwest corner of the Bluewater Fire, stopping movement of fire toward Bluewater Acres, but fire remained active in windrows of uprooted juniper trees on the north side of the fire. A heavy helicopter dropped water on burning vegetation, assisting firefighters as they suppressed the flames.
Monday crews planned to continue the burnout along FR 425 east of the Diener Canyon Fire, bringing the containment line south to tie in to FR 480. Firefighters will patrol and mop up along FR 178, and may use aerial ignition to clean up unburned areas if necessary, weather permitting. Structure Protection crews will continue assessing prevention needs. Fire is still active on the northeast corner, and helicopters will be used to keep the fire in check, weather permitting.
Below is a video update for both fires by Operations Section Chief Rocky Gilbert. It was posted on Monday, April 16.