With red flag conditions, a series of small fires started in the area this week—but none are threatening buildings or people as of the time The Independent went to press Tuesday night.

On Tuesday afternoon four fires along Interstate 40 between Moriarty and Clines Corners merged into a single fire that was reported at 50 acres Tuesday evening by a government website by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, at wildfiresnearme.com.

Torrance County Sheriff Heath White said the fires along I-40 were likely caused either by people throwing fireworks out the window of a moving car, or by a mechanical problem with parts dragging and throwing out sparks. Multiple witnesses called to report both, White said. “When we arrived we heard from multiple witnesses about a white color sedan shooting fireworks out the window,” he said. “Other witnesses said that it was a mechanical issue, like the car was on fire dragging pieces. We can’t confirm the cause of the fire.”

White said four fires initially had merged into a single fire and moved into a canyon, making it harder for emergency responders to fight. The remote area does have some ranches “but they’re not threatened at the moment,” he said, adding that the fire would have to rage out of control for a long time before any people or homes would be in danger.

The fires have caused disruption of traffic on the freeway as firefighters and emergency crews are staged on the edge of the road. That has resulted in several near misses as the sheriff’s department closed the freeway down to a single lane. “It’s a dangerous situation for emergency responders,” White said. “It’s certainly more dangerous than the actual fire at the moment.”

On Monday, two fires started near Tijeras but both were put out immediately.

The National Weather Service in Albuquerque put out an alert Monday which included the median peak seasonal fire danger in the state and beyond. In the Sandia and Manzano Mountains, that date falls June 16, while in the Estancia Valley the peak danger date historically has been June 23.

Tuesday the National Weather Service described as “critical fire weather,” which is expected to cool a bit later in the week with hot and dry conditions expected to last through the weekend.

For more information, visit weather.gov/abq.

Leota Harriman
Leota Harriman

Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at news.ind.editor@gmail.com.