Ute Park Fire at nearly 37,000 acres; ‘critical fire weather’ forecast

June 6, 2018

The Ute Park Fire in northeastern New Mexico, which ignited Thursday along U.S. 64 between Eagle Nest and Cimarron, has grown to nearly 37,000 acres, the State Forestry Division reported Tuesday.

Meanwhile, lightning started two new fires Monday in Santa Fe National Forest, officials said.

“Critical fire weather” — with low humidity, high temperatures, high winds and lightning — along with smoky conditions are expected in the next few days, as a high-pressure system builds to the south, National Weather Service forecasters said.

An evacuation order for Cimarron and the surrounding area, issued Thursday because of the Ute Park Fire, was lifted Monday, but U.S. 64 remained closed Tuesday as crews worked to repair road and utility pole damage. The tiny community of Ute Park remained under a mandatory evacuation order. No homes burned during the fire, but 14 outbuildings on the Boy Scouts of America’s Philmont Scout Ranch burned Thursday.

Almost 600 personnel, assisted by eight helicopters, 29 fire engines, five bulldozers and nine water tenders, continued to fight the fire, officials said. The cause of the blaze, which was about 25 percent contained Tuesday afternoon, remained under investigation.

One lightning-caused fire that started Monday in the Pecos Wilderness, near another Boy Scouts-owned property, had burned 1 acre of grass, sage and ponderosa pine and was expected to be contained by Tuesday evening, the U.S. Forest Service said. Because of difficult hike-in conditions in the area of the Gorham Fire, which lies east of the Gorham Scout Camp in the Española Ranger District of the Santa Fe National Forest, four firefighters rappelled to the scene from a helicopter.

Three engines and one 12-member hand crew were helping fight the blaze.

A second fire sparked Monday in the Pecos Ranger District of Santa Fe National Forest. That blaze, also caused by lightning, was 100 percent contained to half an acre, officials said. The fire started 1.5 miles east of the Glorieta Lookout.

Due to the high fire danger, Kid’s Pond at the state’s Seven Springs Fish Hatchery in the Jemez Mountains was scheduled to close at dusk Wednesday, the New Mexico Game and Fish Department said.

In a mutual agreement with the Benedictine Monastery, the department also planned to close Monastery Lake in Pecos. Both lakes will remain closed until conditions improve, the agency said.