USA — An interagency investigative team led by New Mexico State Forestry has determined that the 123,563 acre Las Conchas wildfire New Mexicos largest wildfire – was caused by a fallen aspen tree that burst into flames after contacting nearby power lines – the fire then spread into nearby vegetation. Investigators from New Mexico State Forestry, the USDA Forest Service, New Mexico State Police and Sandoval County believe the fire started after an aspen tree was blown down onto nearby power lines during a period of strong winds. The contact resulted in the line arcing, which then caused the tree to catch fire. The Las Conchas wildfire is currently 19 percent contained.
Las Conchas Fire Update and recent developments:
InciWeb reports that extreme fire behavior is expected today on slopes and drainages where the fire has left unburned fuels. Firefighters will focus on the western perimeter of the fire to watch for increased fire activity.
Fire suppression, control line preparation, structure protection, burn-out and mop up operations will continue in the; Los Alamos Area, Santa Clara Canyon/Chicoma Mountain Area, South Fork Area, Valles Caldera National Preserve, Vallecitos de Los Indios/Sierra Los Pinos, Bearhead Peak and Bland Canyon area.
Los Alamos National Laboratory will reopen to employees on Wednesday, July 6, 2011; The US Army Corps of Engineers recreation facilities at Cochiti Lake are currently closed. The closure encompasses all Cochiti Lake public use sites including campgrounds (Tetilla Peak, Cochiti), docks, boat ramps, picnic areas and swimming locations; Resource advisors from local pueblos continue to work with the Las Conchas incident management team to identify sensitive historical and cultural sites within the fire area. Archeologists are working with fire crews to help protect these sites.
Las Conchas Wildfire Summary:
The Las Conchas wildfire broke out on Sunday June 26th, 2011 at approximately 01:00 PM approximately 12 miles southwest of Los Alamos off NM 4 at mile marker 35 and is currently 19% contained. According to the latest InciWeb report, 18 helicopters, 78 engines, 28 water tenders and 8 dozers and some 2,164 personnel – including 56 crews – are currently deployed. To-date 63 residences, 5 commercial properties, 32 outbuildings and an estimated 123,563 acres of mixed conifer and ponderosa pine forest have been destroyed. 4 injuries have been reported.