PECOS, N.M. (KRQE) - It's been a tough day for firefighters tackling a growing fire in the Santa Fe National Forest as high winds fanned flames and grounded firefighting aircraft.
The Tres Lagunas Fire first reported Thursday afternoon has spread over an estimated 1,000 acres by early Friday morning, 2,000 acres by late afternoon and was still growing. Fire activity increased during the afternoon in the ponderosa pine forest already recognized for its extreme fire danger due to drought.
The wildfire burning about 10 miles north of Pecos is just 5 percent contained with winds forecast Friday at 11-21 mph with gusts to 40 mph.
Pecos residents already on edge have been warned to be alert for changes in the wind direction that might turn the flames toward the community.
"We're just worried," said Ben Nickerson. The fire churning in the Carspn National Forest is "just heartbreaking," he added.
The lack of air support coupled with difficult the terrain is making for a dangerous fire and hard conditions for the 350 fire personnel assigned to the battle.
State Route 63 running along the Pecos river remains closed at el macho church around milepost 14 as the fire burns on both sides of the river.
Mostly it's headed northeast toward summer homes, Jack's Creek Campground and a lot of dry fuels. The fire is being blamed on a downed power line and is zero percent contained.
"Predominantly the fire is kind of spreading off to the east," Wildfie Management Officer Duane Archuleta said while gesturing to a map. "The concern is the possibility of it pushing out this way where there's continuous fuels.
"There are other structures and summer homes that are northeast of that."
So far all of what's burned is wildland and none of the more than 140 homes and cabins that dot the popular recreation area.
The 40 people evacuated Thursday were mostly hikers and campers. On Friday voluntary evacuations were requested in the Cow Creek area.
A public meeting was scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Pecos High School auditorium.
An emergency closure order also was issued banning public access to the entire Pecos River watershed bordered by the crests of the Santa Fe, Truchas and Sangre de Cristo mountains.
With the winds blowing hard there is a potential for the fire to turn quickly. Gov. Susana Martinez urged residents particularly around the community of Pecos to be alert to conditions and ready to leave.
"Should the fire turn south, I encourage residents to be vigilant and be prepared if you are asked to evacuate," she said Friday in Pecos. "this means you have to have your essentials ready to go, any photos, prescriptions, any important documents to feel you're going to need should anything happen toy our residence."
An evacuation center has been set up at the Pecos High School gym, and evacuees with livestock can take their animals to the San Miguel Sheriff's Posses-Pecos Rodeo Grounds (contact person Gene Garcia (505) 490-3081).
Livestock also can be taken to Rodeo de Santa Fe until space fills up (3229 Rodeo Rd.; contact (505) 310-2359 or (505) 316-5141).
Fire departments from across the area are sending help to Pecos. The Albuquerque Fire Department is sending five firefighter-paramedics prepared to be gone for as long as two weeks.
Smoke is visible from Interstate 25 over Glorieta Mesa and north from Las Vegas.
The New Mexico Environment Department issued a smoke advisory for an area that could grow to include Albuquerque depending on the wind. Smoke is expected to be worst in the Pecos River canyon, but the community of Pecos as well as Las Vegas and Santa Fe may see and feel the effects over the weekend.
Information on how to judge the thickness of smoke and deal with its health effects can be found on the NMED website .
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