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Jaroso blaze threat to area

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By Martin Salazar

It may have started in the Santa Fe National Forest’s Española Ranger District, but the fast moving Jaroso Fire has crossed into the Pecos-Las Vegas Ranger District and is now posing a threat to numerous structures in Ledoux, South Carmen, Upper Rociada, Gascon, Camp Davis and structures along NM 276 and Forest Service Road 60.

Fire managers said the most active part of the fire cotninues to be on the southern and eastern sides, worrying people in places like Ledoux and Upper Rociada. As of Thursday morning no evacuations had been ordered, but fire crews are telling people in threatened areas to be prepared.

“We are at the peak of fire season and fire danger is at extreme levels,” fire managers said in a news release Thursday. “Residents living in communities south and east of the Jaroso Fire need to be prepared incase evacuations are ordered. To ensure smooth and orderly evacuations, residents should have a go-kit ready.”

The blaze, which was sparked by lightning on June 10, has already burned 10,167 acres, and there was no containment as of Thursday. It is burning in what is being described as rugged, steep, deep canyons of the Pecos Wilderness and is being fueled by mixed-conifer and heavy dead and down trees.

A public meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. this Friday at the Pendaries Lodge in Rociada.

So far, 132 people are battling the blaze. Six engines and three helicopters are also being used.

Optic columnist Editha Bartley, who lives in Gascon in Mora County, said heavy smoke and white ash particles falling from the air had her and her neighbors worried on Monday and Tuesday. She said the smoke has dissipated since then because the directions of the winds have changed.

Bartley said fire trucks have been patrolling the area looking for spot fires. Fire officials, she said, are urging people not to set off fireworks or be doing any type of outdoor burning because conditions are just too dangerous.

“One dropped cigarette and we’ve got another fire,” Bartley said.

Several recreation areas are also at risk from the Jaroso Fire, including Jack’s Creek Campground, Iron Gate Campground, Panchuela Campground and structures in Grass Mountain, Pecos Canyon Estates, Winsor, Cowles and the Panchuela area.

According to fire officals, the south part of the fire continues to slow back down into the Horsethief Meadow. The blaze was about a half mile west of the Pecos River.

The Upper Pecos Watershed Association posted on Facebook that the Jarosa Fire had already made its way into the Pecos Watershed.

A Wildland Fire Management Team was to assume command of the Jaroso Fire Thursday evening. Those teams offer the fire suppression skills of a veteran Type II Team and they have additional skills and qualifications to battle longer-duration fires, according to the news release.

Other fires
Significant progress has been made on two other area wildfires.

The Whites Peak fire was 100 percent contained as of Wednesday. That blaze consumed more than 1,200 acres about 14 miles southwest of Cimarron, forcing Boy Scouts to relocate to another camping area. It was sparked by lightning on June 13.

The Tres Laguna Fire, which burned more than 10,000 acres is at least 90 percent contained. That fire was sparked by a downed power line about 10 miles north of Pecos on May 30.

The concern in that area has now switched to flooding and the potential loss of life and property that could result.

Risk of flooding
The Tres Lagunas Fire Burned Area Emergency Response Team issued a report earlier this week that outlines several concerns, among them that peak flows are predicted to increase from two to five times across the burned area.

“There is very high risk of loss of life on (National Forest Service) land within the downstream of the burned area,” the report states. “Individuals who may find themselves in drainages within or below the burned area or on roads affected by fire upstream are at very high risk during storm events.”

The team notes that the drainages affected by high burn severity will have higher than usual runoff and debris flows, “which could cause injury or death.” The report states that trees throughout the burn area pose a very high risk for anyone entering.

“There is a high probability that life and safety will be threatened by post-fire storm events on private and state lands in Pecos Canyon downstream from the burn area,” the report states. “There is also a high likelihood that the Pecos River could be contaminated by hazardous materials from commerical and private properties during a flood event such as septic waste and household chemicals.”

To mitigate some of that risk, the team recommends bringing in straw mulch for 512 acres that experienced high and moderate burn severity. They are also recommending seeding for  1,653 acres that had high and moderate burn severity.