A wildfire southeast of Roswell continued to burn Monday, as fierce winds bore down on Chaves County.
The Patterson Fire — which has been burning on private land along both sides of a section of the Pecos River since Friday — was 60% contained and at 788 acres as of Monday, unchanged from late Sunday, according to Wendy Mason, wildfire prevention and communications coordinator for the New Mexico Forestry Division.
Mason said the Forestry Division, which is in charge of containing the blaze, is confident the percentage of the fire contained will increase throughout the next fours days. Firefighting crews though are monitoring the situation and working to make sure there aren’t any additional flare-ups.
The fire burned as Chaves County experienced winds of up to 45 mph and gusts of up to 65 mph Monday. Mason said the high winds are not unusual for this time of year and the the Forestry Division was mindful of the challenges the winds present.
“So, there is always a concern about potential for fires to pick up again, but we’ve got a good crew out there and they got it pretty much under control.”
The Forestry Division had about 40 personnel on the ground working to contain the blaze, down from 70 Saturday.
No injuries or damage was reported from the fire.
The Patterson Fire was sparked by a lightening strike Thursday evening along the Pecos River. Nearby city and volunteer fire departments along with the State Forestry Division and Bureau of Land Management were able to put out the fire by 3 a.m. Friday, mostly through back burning.
However the fire was rekindled at about noon Friday.
New Mexico State Police then closed off River Road to nonresidents and subsequently evacuated Bottomless Lakes State Park and at least one home due to the dangers presented by the smoke and fire.
Bottomless Lakes was reopened Saturday at 11 a.m. but only for day use.
Grasses, dry brush, low humidity and winds helped fuel the fire and local city and volunteer firefighters worked to put out the fire.
Jimmie Williams, East Grand Plains Fire Department assistant chief, estimated Saturday that 60 to 80 personnel from local fire departments were on the ground Friday afternoon to fight the fire, along with personnel from the State Forestry Division.
He said about 40 pieces of firefighting equipment were also used along with two heavy air tankers. Because the fire was in a marshy place it was hard to access and contain, Williams said.
“I’ve been in this business a long time and that was one of the worst ones I’ve seen trying to gain control of,” Williams said of the fire Friday.
The State Forestry Division took charge of the response and relieved fire crews Saturday.
Williams said that he and other first responders are thankful for the support they received from citizens, businesses and churches throughout Chaves County that provided food and water to those on the front lines.
“It was absolutely fantastic. Our citizens really stepped up and helped out our first responders and we really appreciated it,” Williams said.
Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.