OJO CALIENTE, N.M. (KRQE) – A fire tore through one of New Mexico’s hidden gems on Thursday. The historic bathhouse at Ojo Caliente Spa and Hot Springs was hit particularly hard. The State Historian of New Mexico spoke to News 13 about the significance of the springs to our state.
“You can feel the heat from the fire,” said Katie Hagan in a video she took.
Cell phone video captures the intensity of the flames that engulfed Ojo Caliente Spa on Thursday.
“We’re evacuating our really beautiful room right now in the middle of dinner to be determined,” said Hagan in another video.
Crews battled the blaze for hours. They were able to contain the fire from spreading but the damage hit the historic bathhouse hard. The bathhouse was part of the original structure and it was a place where people go for saunas and therapeutic treatments.
“It could’ve been a whole lot worse,” said Taos County Fire Chief Mike Cordova. “If our volunteers didn’t get there and stop the spread of the fire into the main building, that would’ve been substantially worse.”
Ojo Caliente is much more than a hot spring and local favorite. The State Historian said it’s significance landed a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. The site dates back to the Tewa speaking Pueblo people.
“They’re an ancient community, there’s three ancient communities in the area,” said State Historian of New Mexico Robert Martinez. “In their language, the area was called ’emerald green’ because the waters turned green because algae grew in the water.”
Throughout the centuries, the hot springs have drawn in people for a remedial cleanse.
“That area obviously has a certain mystical significance because those waters are very healing for people who have health problems or even emotional health,” said Martinez. “Going to those hot springs, Ojo Caliente can be very soothing and healing.”
Although this is a huge loss, historians said part of New Mexico’s history is about rebuilding from the ashes. “That whole area is a special place for all of us,” said Martinez. “So we need to think about how to rebuild it.”
No one was hurt in the fire. Right now firefighters said it’s too early to tell what caused it.