4 p.m., July 10
This story has been edited to add the most recent map sent out by the Forest Service.
3 p.m., July 10
Conflicting information about the Ojo de Los Casos fire near Chilili has been circulating on social media, with the Torrance County Sheriff’s Department sharing a post on Facebook earlier today saying the fire is out.
“The fire isn’t out,” said Torrance County Manager Wayne Johnson.
The most recent update, around 11 a.m. today, from the Forest Service reported the acreage of the fire at 167 acres, after infrared flyovers overnight and better mapping, according to that press release.
Johnson said that one thing the Type 3 Incident Management Team has not done is to set up a cohesive source for information, meaning that county officials have in some cases “put out information that is not accurate, coming from places unknown.”
That could include talking with other agencies or firefighters, Johnson said. Another possibility is that the post was referring to a different fire off Lexco Road; Johnson wasn’t able to reach the sheriff, and neither was The Independent.
The county is waiting for information from the Forest Service like everyone else, Johnson said, adding, “Our information is going to be a little behind.”
Johnson said the best and most up-to-date information will be coming from the Incident Management Team.
When that team took over, both Torrance County and Bernalillo County moved to support roles, Johnson said, which he said is typical as the specialized wildland teams come in. Typically the county and municipal fire departments will be first on the scene, Johnson said.
“Once the Type 3 team is on the ground they pull back the local responders and put them on structure protection,” Johnson said. “As capabilities change and resources come on-scene, they’ll pull back the local folks.”
According to the most recent press release, the fire has reached 167 acres and is zero percent contained.
“Lots of good containment lines have been established around the fire but, because of the intense heat within the fire perimeter combined with very hot weather conditions, fire managers are not yet prepared to increase containment percentage. Hand crews continued working through the night to construct and reinforce containment lines,” the press release says. “Today, air operations will continue to drop water to slow the fire spread. Engines and hand crews will mop up areas of the fire to the south, and hotshot crews and air support will focus on the north to protect private property.”
There are no evacuation orders or official closures at this time, but residents are advised to be prepared to evacuate if needed.
The press release says today’s hot weather could impact fire activity: “Slightly higher temperatures and lower humidity could lead to an increase in fire activity today.”
Johnson said the county’s preliminary work on readying to open a shelter for animals if needed, or to reopen a shelter for people, is in a holding pattern, to be called on if needed. “They’ll call us in if they need us,” he said.
Resources assigned to the fire include four hot shot crews, six engines, helicopter bucket drops, and two bulldozers—and also includes a medical screening team, a medical decontamination team, a wildland fire module and a rapid extraction module.
The fire is burning in Ponderosa pine and slash, according to the press release.
The Independent will continue to monitor this fire as needed.