SAN MIGUEL COUNTY, N.M. (KRQE) – Residents in San Miguel County are worried again this year as the Las Tusas Fire continues to spread. Officials said many of the same communities that had to evacuate last year because of the Hermits Peak Calf Canyon Fire are having to leave again.
Fire officials said the Las Tusas Fire started Wednesday afternoon and had spread quickly because of high winds. The fire has already burned 1,000 acres and several structures. Crews have said that there was minimal growth on Thursday. Crews have used air support to drop retardant and water on the western flank and are hope full to secure some containment as the winds die down tonight and with rain possible this weekend. One of their concerns, if the fire reaches the Hermits Peak Calf Canyon Fire burn scar, it could rapidly spread through the fresh grass that’s only just started to regrow.
“It’s kind of the same terrain that the Calf Canyon and Hermits Peak fires were in. Same communities are impacted at this point. I know we evacuated the same communities that we evacuated on this fire. So, the fuel loading’s the same. The wind is the same, unfortunately, that we had last year,” said Steve Griego, Deputy Incident Commander.
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Griego said right now their priority is keeping the fire away from structures and out of the communities. He said after that, they hope to begin getting it contained and steered toward the Hermits Peak Calf Cayon burn scar. He said temperature dropping overnight and the humidity coming up has helped curb the blaze but that there were still some fires that popped up in the La Tewa area where they fought to save structures.
Folks in the community said it is an overwhelming sense of frustration that this is happening here again. “It started yesterday back in that hill back there and then it just took off I mean it took off fast. Within an hour and a half, that thing just went across all the way over there. The flames, they were just shooting up 60, 70 feet in the air. I mean, it moved fast,” said Orlando Martinez who is from Sapello.
Officials said they will be using a lot of the containment lines that were cut last year for the Hermits Peak Calf Canyon Fire to try to curb this one. Officials said they’ve had around 150 firefighters and volunteers working the fire to get it under control but winds are working against them.
Highway 94 is closed from the 518 Junction to mile marker 6 along with Country Road 266. Evacuations are still underway for residents along Highway 94 from Canoncito to the intersection at Highway 266. As of noon, May 11, the fire had burned about 1,000 acres and is 0% percent contained.