California, Colorado wildfires cause hazy skies across New Mexico

New Mexico

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Most of New Mexico is socked in by smoke. Monday, fire officials say most of the smoke is not coming from the growing Medio Fire currently burning in the Santa Fe National Forest.

Early Monday, fire officials announced the start of a burnout operation which hopes to gain control of the fire as it grows toward containment lines. While this will create more air traffic and smoke, officials say most of the smoke is blowing in from out of state.

“Most of the smoke we’re having in this area is coming from California and the Colorado fires. Ours is producing very little smoke. So, a lot of people are thinking, my God, the smoke is so bad here and it’s from this fire and now you guys are doing burning operations. It’s going to make the smoke even worse. We’re producing very little,” said Steven La-Sky the Public Information Officer for the Medio Fire.

The Medio Fire, burning near the Tesuque and Nambe Pueblo’s, has burned about 2,400 acres over the last week. It is currently 5% contained. The cause is under investigation. No homes or structures are currently at risk.

The fire is in a remote area and officials say they are relying heavily on air support.

“[Yesterday], we had three retardant drops. Well, we had two successful, the third one hit some wild weather, had to jettison his load, and then all air operations sat down,” said La-Sky.

Monday, SkyNews 13 caught Black Hawk helicopters back up in the air. Pilots are lowering their buckets into the Nambe Reservoir and dropping water onto the fire.

“Things are changing all the time. We’re hoping everything goes as planned today with the burn, with the Black Hawks doing bucket drops but that can change in a moment due to the weather,” said La-Sky.

The burnout operation may last several days.

Last year, fire crews did a prescribed burn. That 2019 burn was able to stop the Medio Fire from growing to the south.

“When the fire hit this old prescribed burn, that means there’s very little fuel in there to burn. So, it effectively put the fire out and stopped it from spreading to these high-risk areas of the Tesuque tribal lands and also, further, to the [Santa Fe] ski area. So, that was very effective,” said La-Sky.

There is currently no timeline for when the Medio Fire may be contained. There are already nearly 200 personnel fighting this fire and even more, are on their way to New Mexico. The Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino are providing 150 rooms, meals, and convention space to the crews.

While no structures or homes are currently threatened, the Structure Protection Group will work with homeowners along the western portion of Forest Road 102 to implement protection measures for residents.

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