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More firefighters called to battle 1,300-acre Cajete Fire

KOB.com Web Staff
June 17, 2017 10:32 AM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.  – Crews continue to battle the Cajete Fire, which started Thursday in the Jemez Mountains.

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United Stated Forest Service officials said Saturday morning that the fire has grown to 1,315 acres, based on infrared mapping.

More resources are expected to help fight the blaze. The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced on Thursday night that it has approved funds to help with expenses.

Officials said on Friday that crews are working to establish perimeter control with the fire. Winds have pushed the fire to the east and southeast, causing smoke to blanket much of the Jemez Mountains on Friday.

Minimal moisture and dry conditions that are expected to continue have kept the fire alive.

Gov. Susana Martinez said as many as 200 people have been evacuated as a precaution. In response to the fire, Martinez activated the state's emergency operations center.

"New Mexicans know better than most just how devastating wildfires can be. As we face this year’s fire season together, we’re also reminding everyone to keep safety in mind and be prepared," she said.

In a press conference on Friday afternoon, Martinez urged those living in the area to leave if officials are urging them to do so. 

"We don't want to put those first responders at risk for getting hurt or putting those responders in any harm because they're going back in later when it's more urgent, and therefore risking their safety," she said. 

Evacuation centers for the Cajete Fire are set up at La Cueva Lodge and the Jemez Mountain Baptist Church. The village of Jemez Springs is also allowing evacuees and firefighters access to free showers at its bathhouse, and local restaurants are offering them discounts.

KOB spoke to some evacuees today who say getting out of dodge meant a matter of chaotic minutes.

"I didn't do a very good job of packing, but I grabbed a pop-up camper and truck and filled it full of dogs and got out of there," evacuee Shaun Weary said. "The flames were about a quarter-mile from the house."

Weary said he scooped up his dog and turned his pop up camper into a make-shift Noah's Ark. The whole pack is stranded for now at the Jemez Mountain Baptist Church.

It's been a trying day for evacuees, as state police arranged short, escorted trips to the fire line. Evacuees have to sign a waiver if they want to stay.

In light of the dry conditions, the Santa Fe National Forest has imposed some fire restrictions. In the Jemez and Cuba ranger districts, fires are only allowed in developed camp and picnic grounds, where grills and stoves are provided. People can only smoke in vehicles, indoors, and in developed areas. Fireworks are also not allowed.

All the crews battling the fire need lots of water and food, but please don't try to donate any yourself. Los Alamos County Emergency Management, which is helping coordinate supplies, says private donations only drain resources.

Staff has to go out of its way to inventory and handle donations. and unexpected items could go unused. While they appreciate people wanting to help, they say it's best to let emergency managers handle it.

The volunteer group Animal Amigos has been helping to rescue animals from evacuated homes, while the Los Alamos Animal Shelter has taken in small animals forced to evacuate.

As of Friday afternoon, Animal Amigos had evacuated two parakeets, 2 guinea pigs, a rabbit, 24 chickens, five dogs, five goats and five ducks. 

Here is information about animal rescue

  • Small animals: Los Alamos County Animal Shelter – cats and dogs (of any size)
  • Big animals: Los Alamos County Fairgrounds, but must call the shelter first.
  • Number to have an animal rescued: 1-888-828-5822 (Jemez Valley Animal Amigos)

Anyone willing to providing food or other services for the animals are encouraged to call Los Alamos PD at 505-662-8222. 

Fire officials said crews are feeling optimistic about the safety of the neighborhoods that were evacuated Thursday, but they're watching for any changes in the wind direction.

The cause remains under investigation. Forest officials said preliminary reports the fire was a controlled burn were incorrect.

Officials from the New Mexico State Forestry Division said the fire appears to have started about one mile northeast of Vallecitos de los Indios.

People sensitive to smoke in the Jemez and the Espanola area are urged to keep their windows closed overnight. State health officials are concerned about the effects of the Cajete Fire and another one -- the Bonita Fire -- in northern New Mexico.

The Bonita Fire has burned around 4,000 acres in the Carson National Forest west of Taos. The lightning-caused Bonita Fire is 25 percent contained, and officials say it is finding less fuel to burn. While crews work to contain it, they've closed nearby Hopewell Lake to visitors, so helicopters can use it to draw water.

Fires are named after nearby landmarks, likes roads, lakes and mountains. El Cajete is a crater northeast of the fire zone. It was formed by volcanic activity long ago in the Valles Caldera.

If it's safe to do so, click here to share any photos from the area with KOB. 

This is a Google Map with the fire location along with the highway closure. For mobile users, click here

Credits

KOB.com Web Staff

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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