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Incident management team takes charge of fire response

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A Type-1 Incident Management Team formally took command of the response to the Three Rivers Fire in Lincoln County Wednesday as the wildfire continued to burn for a third day.

The team, led by David Bales, fire staff officer for the Lincoln National Forest, took command at 6 a.m Wednesday, according to an update provided Wednesday morning on the Three Rivers Fire Facebook page. The post also stated that crews battling the blaze would be divided into three divisions and concentrate on building fire lines on the south end of the fire, and then work their way east and north.

Due to harsh conditions and rough terrain, crews were facing particular challenges in the southeastern portion of the fire. The area, according to the post, remains a top priority, because homes and the Ski Apache area are at risk.

The limited road access in the White Mountain area is also a danger for crews seeking to get into the area to fight the fire.

Tuesday night it was reported by the Forest Service that the fire had expanded onto Mescalero Apache Tribal Land, where the Forest Service is working in tandem with the tribe to manage the fire.

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As of Wednesday morning, the fire had reached the Little Bear Scar, an area where vegetation is more scarce but where there are drier fuels on the forest floor, including logs and grass, according to the post.

Moisture levels for downed and dead timber in the area are lower than normal for this time of year.

Laura Rabon, public affairs officer for the U.S. Forest Service, said that as of 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, the fire remained at 12,000 acres and 5% contained, unchanged from the night before, though she warned that could change as crew members were slated to leave the field at 6:30 p.m.

Rabon said a fire evacuation order remains in effect, as of late Wednesday, for the Tan Bank Canyons area, while road closures are still in place for the Bonito Canyon Road past the Bonito Lake Dam, the Nogal Canyon Road past the Nogal Peak Trailhead, the Three Rivers Trailhead and Campground, and the Monjeau Lookout at Sierra Vista.

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

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