UPDATE: 1:45 AM — This photo depicts the flames of the Las Conchas Fire to the right (north) of the town lights of Los Alamos, plainly visible from Santa Fe Thursday night. Photo by Brian Egolf via twitter.
UPDATE: 12:10 AM — Jeremy Jolola of KOB-TV posted the following rough synopsis of Thursday’s events regarding the Las Conchas Fire via Twitter:
-Fire is a record breaker burning beyond 94k acres. This will be official Friday, likely.
-The fire activity closest to Los Alamos has calmed down compared to days past
-Chief Doug Tucker is confident the fire will not burn through the canyon into Los Alamos.
-A fire in the Los Alamos Canyon has been taken care off with back burns and foam
-Sadly sacred parts of land on Santa Clara Pueblo property has been destroyed
-The most aggressive part of the fire is in the Pueblo area, moving north where there are a lot of fuels.
-Air tankers will finally attack this part of the fire Friday
-IMPORTANT: THERE IS NO TIME LINE ON WHEN PEOPLE CAN COME BACK HOME
-As for haze in Los Alamos, it was actually a clear day, except for several hours today when the smoke came in. I suspect some homes will smell like smoke whenever people come back
UPDATE: 10:10 PM — Scores of revealing photos of the Las Conchas Fire’s effects on the Valles Caldera have been posted on the Valles Caldera National Preserve’s official Facebook page. Here are several of the photos, which were taken by VCNP staff member Rourke McDermott:
This shot was taken on the western portion of the Valle Grande looking toward flames burning lava dome Cerro del Medio, which is the most prominent dome that can be seen directly across the Valle Grande from the pullouts on Hwy. 4.
The Las Conchas Fire burning Cerro del Medio looms over elk on the Valle Grande.
Cerro del Medio burns.
Flames engulf Cerro de los Posos, just north of the Valle de los Posos, which separates Pajarito Mountain and Cerro del Medio.
An air crane replenishes its supply of water on the Valle Toledo. Although the source of the water shown here is not stated in the photo’s Facebook caption, it is likely at or near the headwaters of the San Antonio River in the Toledo.
Fire crews blaze a line of defense against the Las Conchas Fire at the north end of Obsidian Valley.
Rendondo Meadow has been transformed into a temporary city as it serves as one of the Las Conchas Fire’s incident command stations.
UPDATE: 4:55 PM — The National Weather Service has just released the following satellite image which shows the Las Conchas Fire and its burn scar. The image was taken from satellite passes over the area Wednesday afternoon and night. Click the image below to load a high-resolution version:
UPDATE: 4:20 PM — The Las Conchas Fire has burned more than 6,000 acres of Santa Clara Pueblo land, according to the pueblo:
Santa Clara Pueblo, NM – The Las Conchas Fire has charred more than 6,000 acres of the watershed of Santa Clara Pueblo and continues to destroy cultural sites, forest resources, plants and animals that the people of Santa Clara depend upon for their livelihood and culture. Wildfires have burned two-thirds of Santa Clara’s forest over the past 13 years, including 8,300 acres burned by the 1998 Oso Complex Fire and the 2000 Cerro Grande Fire. In response, Santa Clara Pueblo Governor Walter Dasheno has issued a Declaration of Emergency.
“We are devastated to witness the destruction of our precious homeland,” said Governor Dasheno. “From time immemorial to this day our community has been stewards of this land, have fought to regain portions taken from us and have invested millions of dollars in restoring the forest and resources.”
After two days of extreme fire behavior, the Las Conchas Fire entered Santa Clara Pueblo lands mid-day on June 29. In the last 24 hours the fire has exploded across the western third of the reservation. This includes the area known as “P’opii Khanu,” the headwaters of the creek, which the Pueblo regained in 2000 after 140 years of struggle.
“Our canyon is the source of our Santa Clara Creek that we rely upon for irrigation but, more than that, it was a beautiful place of abundance in wildlife, clean water, culturally-significant trees and medicinal plants,” said Governor Dasheno.
UPDATE: 3:40 PM — Within 20 minutes after it began, the storm cell passed to the northeast and the sky above is once again blue.
UPDATE: 3:10 PM — Reporting from two miles west of the fire lines at the home of VallesCaldera.com: It is pouring here in the Sierra los Piños area. Weather maps show this to be a relatively small storm cell, heading to the northeast. This is the first precipitation we have experienced here in quite a while.
A new fire map released today (seen below) shows the only main area of significant geographical expansion over the past day of the Las Conchas Fire has been within the Valles Caldera National Preserve and Santa Clara Pueblo. As the fire has been burning north and west, it appears to have burned Cerro del Medio and the Rincon se los Soldados entirely, has entered the beautiful Valle Toledo, and has climbed Chicoma Peak and Cerro Toledo. Cerro Abrigo has burned due to an intentional fire having been set at the top of that lava dome with the hope of stopping westward movement of the fire. This is in addition to prior days’ burning of the southeastern rim of the Valles Caldera, Rabbit Mountain, Cerro Grande, and the eastern portion of the Valle Grande. Additionally, spot fires have been burning in Santa Clara Pueblo.
Today, winds in the the Jemez Mountains are predicted at 25 mph with wind gusts up to 45. Fire managers have labeled the potential for growth of Las Conchas Fire as very high. Staci Matlock of the Santa Fe New Mexican reported that “thunderstorms are dropping lightning strikes into Las Conchas Fire area,” adding another threat to the region.
Click on the map below to download a high-resolution, pdf version of the most recently-released Las Conchas fire map:
Here are today’s strategies with regard to all four flanks of the Las Conchas Fire, as per InciWeb, the Incident Information System:
North – Firefighters are monitoring long-range spotting, which have been seen as far north as the Santa Clara Pueblo. Firefighters will also be dealing with unfavorable winds which may result in extreme fire behavior and continue to push the fire to the north. Firefighters will continue scouting for potential fire line and burnout opportunities to prevent the fire from spreading.
East – Firefighters will work the fire line along the NM Hwy 4 through Bandelier National Monument. Firefighters are working with the Los Alamos National Laboratory to prevent the fire from spreading on to the lab along the eastern perimeter down toward the southern edge of the fire. Firefighters are also creating and implementing structure protection plans for the Pajarito Ski Area and the Bandelier National Monument, as well as coordinating with the Los Alamos Fire Department.
South – Firefighting efforts in this area are supported with favorable winds and lighter fuel types. Today firefighters will be looking for opportunities to check fire spread along the Sanchez and Medio canyons.
West -Firefighters will continue to monitor the northwest side along NM Hwy 4. Favorable winds are helping firefighting efforts in this area.