PLACITAS, N.M. (KRQE) - The Piedra Fire in the Sandia Mountains comes at a dangerous time just as a federal agency reports New Mexico's drought is now the worst in the nation.
The driest stretch includes the Rio Grande Valley.
That is one of the many reasons wildland firefighters Thursday were throwing everything they can into this fight.
Fire bosses say crews are prepared to camp out and work into the night as they try to corral the fire in a steep, forested canyon on the west face of the Sandias.
Crews are using tens of thousands of gallons of water to fight the Piedra Fire and have been hard at work since before the sun came up.
"They are working with hand tools and chainsaws, and you can hear behind us they will be working with a lot of air support," says Arlene Perea with the Cibola National Forest.
To make matters worse, New Mexico is seeing worst drought conditions in the country. Experts say the drought is expanding and becoming more long term, which could mean a more dangerous fire season.
"There is never any option other than full fire suppression on this fire or any other that starts now," Perea adds.
That means a team effort involving multiple agencies with planes and helicopters working to help dozens of people fighting the fire on the ground.
Portable pools that hold about 5,000 gallons of water have been deployed with the Sandoval County Fire Department shuttling back and forth all day to keep them full.
"I knew it was going to be real tough on us on where we're going to get the water from," Deputy Fire Chief Jess Lewis said. "We've gone to ditches that do supply irrigation to farmers, and we're being sensitive to that and not using anything unnecessary."
A state climatologist said things aren't likely to change with below-normal precipitation and above-normal temperatures expected in early summer.
"All these different agencies work hard on preparing because we know drought will play a big role in this fire season," Perea says.
Firefighters said it's a three-hour hike to actually get to the fire, but the good news is because it is in such a remote area, it is not endangering any nearby residents or buildings.
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