UPDATE 1:15 PM — The following time lapse video of the Las Conchas Fire as seen from the Pojoaque Valley yesterday afternoon was just posted on YouTube:
UPDATE: 1:00 PM — The fire management team in charge of the Las Conchas Fire stated in a news conference that the fire has the potential to double or triple in size.
According to the Albuquerque Journal:
The fire is also burning in Bandelier National Monument, but the visitor center is not threatened. The fire is reported to be in the monument’s Frijoles Canyon and within a half-mile of the part of the canyon with ancient Pueblo Indian ruins and cliff dwellings that is the main feature of the monument.
Officials also said that while the fire did hit Dixon Apple Orchard near the village of Cochiti Lake, apparently the orchard trees survived and it was buildings at the orchard site that burned.
UPDATE: 12:30 — Bandelier National Monument has confirmed via Twitter that one-third of its acreage is now on fire. The Monument tweeted: “Future of the historic buildings is still uncertain; all the artifacts were moved out of the museum Sunday night.”
UPDATE: 12:00 NOON — The fire map shown below was just released by New Mexico Fire Info.
Los Alamos Fire Chief Doug Tucker reported in a news conference that at least 30 structures, mostly homes, have burned in Las Conchas, Cochiti Mesa, and Dixon Apple Orchard. He also stated that 2,500 Los Alamos residents have evacuated the Hill under a voluntary basis, and that the fire is within 50 feet of Los Alamos National Laboratory property, although it is currently being held behind fire lines that were established last night.
Los Alamos residents are now reporting that the sky is “raining ash,” and that the smoke is “thick is pea soup” in the town.
The Las Conchas Fire has now spread to 43,597 acres as of 8 am this morning — 19 hours after it began. In comparison, the infamous Cerro Grande Fire of 2000, which burned hundreds of homes in Los Alamos, reached 48,000 acres — but only after two weeks of burning.
Bandelier National Monument and the Valles Caldera National Preserve are closed for the foreseeable future. Structures have burned in Cochiti Mesa, and hundreds of Jemez residents remain evacuated.
Los Alamos County has turned off natural gas to facilities on Los Alamos National Laboratory’s southern border. The county remains under voluntary evacuation.
The fire remains 0% contained.
The following map shows the current extent of the fire:
The following info came from the New Mexico Fire Info web site:
Fire Name: Las Conchas
Time/Date Started: 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 26, 2011
Location: Jemez Ranger District, Santa Fe National Forest; approximately 12 miles southwest of Los Alamos off NM 4 at mile marker 35. The fire started on private land.
Legal Description: T18N, R4E, SEC 4
Cause: Unknown, under investigation
Fuels: Mixed Conifer, Ponderosa Pine
Size: 43,597 acres, based on overnight infrared mapping. The fire burned actively all day to the north/northeast. Running, crowning and spotting up to a half a mile of the head of the fire was observed.
% Contained: 0
Resources Committed:Joe S. Reinarz’ Type 1 Incident Management Team has been ordered. Three helicopters, two Hotshot crews, nine hand crews, five dozers and thirteen engines have been fighting the fire and more are expected to arrive. This is an interagency fire fighting effort. In fire management we all work together. We are working with local, state and federal agencies.
Weather:Today’s red flag conditions (hot temperatures, low humidity, high winds) contributed to the intense fire behavior and rapid fire growth. For a complete weather forecast for tonight and tomorrow click here.
Structures/threats:Structures, powerlines and natural gas lines. The fire is approximately 1 mile southwest of the boundary of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).
Evacuations:Cochiti Mesa, Las Conchas, Bandelier National Monument, and campgrounds near the fire were evacuated today. There were approximately 100 residents evacuated from Cochiti Mesa and Las Conchas and no evacuees reported to the evacuation center at La Cueva Fire Station. Voluntary evacuations were also issued for White Rock and Los Alamos. Because these are voluntary evacuations, no evacuation center has been set up at this time.
The following info came from the Wildfire Today web site:
Yesterday firefighters were actively backfiring along Highway 4 between the fire and the city of Los Alamos. As you can see by the map of the fire, as of late Sunday night the fire was approximately 3 miles from the city. It is also less than a mile from the boundary of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, birthplace of the nuclear bomb and still a location for research on radioactive materials.
One fact working in favor of the firefighters is the footprint of the Cerro Grande fire that burned from Bandelier National Monument into Los Alamos. That fire, which is between the Las Conchas fire and Los Alamos, started from an escaped prescribed fire in the National Monument and on May 10, 2000 moved into Los Alamos and ultimately destroyed over 280 homes and burned 47,000 acres. Less vegetation, or fuel, is available in the old Cerro Grande fire and so far the firefighters have has some success keeping the fire from crossing Highway 4 into the previously burned area, but it has crossed in some places.
Even at 3:00 a.m., when most self-respecting fires take a break and lay down for the night, the Las Conchas fire was still burning so hot very early Monday morning that the convection column of smoke and hot gasses made it very difficult for the infrared aircraft, N149Z, a King Air 200, to fly over the fire to collect the imagery. Normally the aircraft will fly nice, neat, orderly parallel flight lines spaced equidistantly, as you can see from the flight tracks of infrared missions we posted in 2008. Last night they flew six flight lines, most of them in different directions, but they successfully mapped the entire fire.