First fire of season put out near Bernardo

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The first wildfire of the season broke out near Bernardo on Wednesday. The blaze, which has consumed approximately 40 acres, was contained within hours but was still smoldering as of El Defensor Chieftain press time on Friday.

Brent Ruffner/Valencia County News-Bulletin: Fire crews work to put out the first grasslands fire of the season near Bernardo on Wednesday. The blaze was contained but as of Friday afternoon still has not been ruled extinguished.

Jerry Wheeler, Socorro County chief deputy fire marshal, said the fire probably won’t be declared extinguished until sometime this weekend.

“What’s happened is there is a lot of heavy fuel inside the fire line that keeps it flaming up,” he said in a phone interview early Friday afternoon. “It’s been controlled, but probably won’t be called ‘out’ until tomorrow or the next day.”

The fire is believed to be human caused, Wheeler said, and is under investigation.

Wheeler said a large brush fire south of U.S. 60 was reported at 1:54 p.m. Wednesday at which time the Abeytas and Veguita volunteer fire departments were dispatched.

“The initial report was the fire was approximately 5 to 10 acres and spreading,” Wheeler said.

The New Mexico Forestry Division was notified and assistance came from BLM and U.S. Fish and Wildlife crews. A fire investigation team was also sent to the scene, Wheeler said.

By 5 p.m., all resources, including a bulldozer, tank trucks from Fish and Wildlife and the BLM, brush trucks from the Abeytas and Veguita departments and tender trucks were all on scene.

“With everybody working together from all the agencies and fire districts, we were able to get the fire under control by approximately 7 o’clock,” Wheeler said.

A light rain covered the area early Thursday morning, which Wheeler said worked to their advantage. The BLM, a state forestry inmate crew and the Abeytas Fire Department conducted mop-up operations on Thursday and Friday.

“It’s early in the fire season. If it were later in the spring, with the winds, it might have been a different outcome,” Wheeler said. “It’s a good indication we are dry and fire conditions are increasing. We had a lot of heavy snow in December, and that did help, but now we’re getting back into high fire conditions.”

 


-- Email the author at tslast@dchieftain.com.