Difficult firefighting conditions in New Mexico

Posted at: 06/12/2013 6:25 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

New Mexico is burning with wildfires growing and conditions ripening for new ones, but there is one fire in particular that has become a firefighter’s nightmare. They can’t fight it on the ground and they can’t bomb it from the air the way they want to. That would be the Jaroso Fire as it’s an 8,000 acre monster.

It’s a hungry monster, growing bigger by the hour. It’s burning deep in the Pecos Wilderness with a huge plume of smoke rising 20,000 feet into the sky. Lightning started it on Monday and firefighters rapelled in only to find all escape routes threatened. They got out fast. Airplanes? Forget it.

“Those canyons are too steep and too narrow and they need to maneuver to come out of there safely,” said fire manager Duane Archuleta of the Santa Fe National Forest. “ At this point in time it’s not safe to use the heavy air tankers because of the canyons.”

They are using helicopters to bomb the Jaroso Fire, but at best that just slow it down a little. The good news is that no communities are threatened.

That’s not the case with the Silver Fire burning in the Gila National Forest of Southwest New Mexico. The flames came within a quarter mile of the evacuated old mining town of Kingston overnight. Throughout the day Wednesday firefighters managed to protect the town, but conditions couldn’t be much worse.

“Changing winds and also very high temperatures today,” said fire information officer Rob Deyerberg. “There are very significant fuel loads and extreme terrain. All of those combine to make very very challenging conditions for firefighters.”

About 350 people are fighting the Silver Fire, including seven hotshot crews. About 45 people have been evacuated out of tiny Kingston, the old ghost town. Highway 152 from Hillsboro all the way to San Lorenzo remains closed.