“The danger has been mitigated at this point, and we’re wrapping up mop-up operations,” is what acting district forester Lawrence Crane said of the Sixty-six Fire, which whipped through Tijeras Canyon Thursday evening.
Parts of Route 66 remains closed in the area, and intermittent closures of Intestate 40 are possible.
At 2 p.m., State Forestry reported the fire at 40% containment.
At this writing, Bernalillo County Fire Department spokesman Robert Arguelles said “a very large response helped us bring it under control really quickly.”
Responding agencies included Bernalillo County departments of Fire, Sheriff, Roads and Emergency Manager; Albuquerque Fire and Rescue and Albuquerque Police; New Mexico State Police; the Forest Service and State Forestry; Rio Rancho Fire Department and Sandoval County Fire Department; Valencia County Fire Department, Torrance County Fire Department, Los Lunas Fire Department and Bosque Farms Fire Department.
In total so far, 72 personnel have responded to the fire which has consumed approximately 24 acres, Arguelles said.
Bernalillo County Acting Fire Chief Zachary Lardy said firefighters arrived to find the fire “just off the freeway on the north side of the freeway that was pretty rapidly spreading with the winds in the canyon here.”
Driven by those canyon winds, the fire “started to spread to the south side of the road,” he said, adding, “We had a bunch of agency partners that came to our aid really quickly” allowing responders to attack the fire on both sides of the roadways.
Lardy said air tanker drops Thursday evening “were instrumental in stopping the progression of the fire to the north” and allowed crews to start setting containment lines.
“We worked through the night, with all of those agency partners, to make sure we were able to control the fire as best we could,” Lardy said.
Management of the fire was handed over to the State Forestry Division by Bernalillo County, at 6 a.m., Lardy said.
East Area Command Captain Nicholas Huffmyer gave a report about the law enforcement response to the fire.
Huffmyer said the freeway was shut down because of downed power lines.
A tweet from PNM Thursday evening says that just under 300 households were affected by the outage.
“We understand the inconvenience that imposes on the motoring public when you shut down an interstate that has tens of thousands of vehicles that pass through it on a daily basis,” he said. “We’re well aware of that inconvenience. We apologize for that.”
Huffmyer said it comes down to “preservation of life hierarchy decision-making” to get roadways open safely, adding, “We don’t take those decisions lightly.”
Acting District Forester Lawrence Crane said that years of the agencies working together, “too many to name,” means, “We’re able to come out here, know different places, right away gel together and figure out what needs to be done. … With what’s going on in northern New Mexico, it’s very important to hit these fires hard and fast with use of a lot of resources.”
He continued, “I’m not out here representing one agency. It’s these folks behind us, who were out there on the fire … that’s the important thing, everybody coming together. … Everybody did a really good job last night to catch this thing and minimize effects for the homeowners and the landscape.”
Huffmyer said a car chase through the closed area happened last night when someone broke around a barrier.
Arguelles said this afternoon that there have been two incursions by drones over the fire. There is a temporary restriction of the airspace; people flying drones endanger firefighters and those working to repair power lines in the area, he said.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, Lardy said.
Lardy said evacuations were lifted Friday morning, when crews “could get in and do a good assessment … and we were able to identify there was no continued risk.”
Mop-up involves scouring the area for hot spots and smoldering embers. “We take that really seriously, we don’t want to run the risk that embers are picked up. The winds pick up pretty quickly and are erratic. We take that really seriously.”