Ranchers face unknown questions as Diego Fire threatens cattle

Created: 07/01/2014 6:12 PM
By: Caleb James, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Many folks in the Jemez Mountains are faced with a lot of unknown as the Diego Wildfire continues to burn.

The fire south of Coyote has grown to more than 3,400 acres and there is no containment at all. It has led to evacuations for communities near the fire including Wetherall, Jarosa, and Dunlap Spring.

Many people own property and keep livestock in the fire area. Rancher Phil Branch is like so many others in this area. He says his herd of cattle is pretty spread out up there. He worries a little more every day about them.

Branch is in limbo right now. A lot of what he loves is in serious trouble.

“It really hurts to see the loss we are going through,” said Branch. “The loss that I envision, the loss I haven't seen yet, that I really don't want to see.”

Branch lives in Coyote but he runs 50 head of cattle on a sprawling ranch right in the Diego Fire's path. The cattle grazes up there alongside the cabin he built with his father when he was growing up.

Branch says he and his son worked exhaustingly to bring his tractor, a hay bailer, and thousands of pounds of fresh hay down off the mountain.

He knows if worse comes to worse there will be at least two survivors from his herd. A calf and his mom are the only cows branch has in Coyote. He was waiting till mom gave birth to bring her back up to the mountain. Now he’s glad he waited. 

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