Home News Local News Fire leads to evacuation of Bottomless Lakes

Fire leads to evacuation of Bottomless Lakes

Smoke is seen rising from River Road Friday afternoon. The plumes of smoke came from a wildfire that, as of Friday evening, consumed 450 acres along both sides of the Pecos River and led to the evacuation of Bottomless Lakes State Park. (Alex Ross Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Large plumes of smoke and fast-spreading fire along a section of the Pecos River led to the evacuation of Bottomless Lakes State Park and at least one home in the area Friday.

The Patterson Fire raged about 10 miles southeast of Roswell and just west of Bottomless Lakes. By 5 p.m. Friday, the fire and smoke had engulfed 450 acres of private property along the river and was zero-percent contained, according to the New Mexico State Forestry Division.

Structures along the east side of the River were under threat from the fire though no injuries were reported, according to the Forestry Division.

The Patterson Fire was started Thursday evening due to a lightning strike in the area. Similar fires were started at the Bitter Lakes Wildlife Refuge and the Twin Dams Reservoir.

Firefighters fully contained the Patterson Fire by 3 a.m., but the fire was rekindled Friday afternoon.

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No word on how the fire was restarted, but Wendy Mason, wildlife prevention and communications coordinator with the Forestry Division said it is possible that some still-burning embers from the earlier fire were picked up by the wind and dropped elsewhere.

People driving along U.S. Highway 70 East could see smoke rising in the distance when New Mexico State Police closed off River Road to traffic at 2 p.m.

In all, between 50 to 60 personnel from local professional and volunteer fire departments as well as state and federal agencies were on hand to battle the blaze, according to the Forestry Division.

Additional firefighters from the New Mexico State Forestry Returning Heroes Program — an organization of firefighters who were veterans of the U.S. Armed Services — were en route to Chaves County to help battle the blaze.

“There are crews cutting lines by hand, saw, shovel and every other tool, as well as crews ahead of the fire back burning to slow the progress and stop the fire from running,” Justin Powell, fire chief with Dexter Fire & Rescue — one of the departments helping battle the fire — said in a Facebook post Friday evening.

Firefighters at the scene faced arduous conditions such as heat, winds of up to 40 mph while arid grasses and stray brush provided fuel for the fire. Powell said in a Facebook post that the fire had jumped the river several times.

However, because of the team on the ground and support from air tankers flying overhead, the south end of the fire was tied in.

“The air tankers helped immensely with the building lines and probably saving one structure,” Powell stated.

No additional updates were provided by the Forestry Division before press time Friday.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.