The first fire of the season was in the Manzano Mountains this week, when a fire broke out in the burn zone of the 2007 Ojo Peak Fire.

The May 3 blaze was reported and dubbed the Ox Spring Fire. As of May 4, the fire is 100% contained at under half an acre, according to the Forest Service.

“It hasn’t been declared ‘out’ yet but I expect it will be within the next couple of days,” said Forest Service spokeswoman Arlene Perea.

The fire is now in a “monitor” status, and all outside resources have now been released from the fire. Crews from the Mountainair Ranger District will continue to monitor the fire area for any signs of heat.

The fire was located west of Forest Road 422 near the Ox/Box trail junction. Total loss was 0.47 acres.

The Mountainair Ranger District were first to respond to the scene, and they arrived within 16 minutes of the fire getting reported, Perea said. Mountainair and Torreón Fire departments were next to arrive, a few minutes behind the Ranger District. Two helicopters were on the scene within 26 minutes of the smoke report.

Firefighters were able to line the fire to hold its growth to under an acre. Torrance County had a quick response and offered support during this incident as they provided firefighters, brush trucks and water tenders, Perea said.

Water support was available from the village of Manzano but was not needed for the incident. “There is a small natural spring that creates a little pond but only certain times of the year. The helicopters were able to collect water from that source and spray it over the fire. It’s usually dry,” said Perea. The cause of this fire was investigated but is undetermined at this time.

The Mountainair Ranger District is beginning to talk about restrictions. “The campfire restrictions put into place because of the pandemic have been helpful, but dryer conditions are starting to warrant industrial precautions as well,” said Mountainair Ranger Ernest Taylor. “We are probably looking at two to three weeks before these are put into place,” Taylor said.

There is currently an extra fire engine in the district, from the Black Kettle National Grassland. They will be in Mountainair for two weeks to help with patrols and response teams, if needed. Fire danger remains “high.” He said the district is hoping for cooler temperatures later in the week but “right now the dry and windy conditions make for a bad combination and we are certainly on the watch.” .

Sandia Ranger District is also rating fire danger as “high.” The levels “have fluctuated between moderate, high and very high these past couple of weeks. Moderate was the average until May 5,” said Sandia District Ranger Crystal Powell.

She said there have been several Red Flag Warnings issued over the past few weeks. The campfire restriction is still in place for the Sandia Ranger District, and “there have been no fires in the last two weeks,” Powell said.

Under the April 15 campfire restriction order the following are prohibited: igniting, building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, including charcoal grills and barbecues, coal- and wood-burning stoves. Violating campfire restrictions may result in an appearance in federal court, fines and possible time in jail. Pressurized liquid or gas devices (stoves, grills or lanterns) with shut-off valves are permitted in areas at least three feet from any flammable materials. Bathrooms and developed recreational areas are still closed.

For information about weather conditions and flag warning statuses visit weather.gov/fire. For more information about fire restrictions and state fire information visit gacc.nifc.gov/swcc/information/information.htm or visit nmfireinfo.com.

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 [email protected]