Residents say smoke was reported days before firefighters responded to the Diego Fire

Created: 07/02/2014 5:46 PM
By: Caleb James, KOB Eyewitness News 4

The Diego Fire in the Jemez Mountains is still zero percent contained and continues to grow. The fire has burned 400 more acres overnight. It’s at 3,600 right now. Since firefighting efforts began near Coyote in the Jemez, residents have been asking why crews seemed to take a while to respond to the Diego Fire.

Some residents tell us they reported smoke rising from the remote forest above Coyote days before firefighters responded.

There was frustration and a lot of questions in Coyote last night. Residents asked fire officials why it took so long to start battling the Diego Fire.

Coyote rancher John Branch told KOB area residents reported smoke days before firefighters took action.

“We determined it was most likely from a lightning strike on June 15. However, we did not know about it till June 25,” said Santa Fe national Forest spokeswoman Donna Nemeth.

Nemeth says that fire was burning ten days before firefighters were told about it.  Residents here say it was reported long before the 25th.

“We will bring in people who are objective, who are not from Santa Fe National Forest and they will look at all of the records and all of the actions that were taken initially and we'll use this as a learning experience,”Nemeth said.

Nemeth says the lessons learned this time will be used to better fight the next fire. Here or anywhere else.

The results will be made public.

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