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Three Rivers Fire reduced in size

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Authorities on Friday reported a sharp reduction in the size of the fire burning in the White Mountain Wilderness area, though crews are bracing for a possible resurgence in fire activity as warmer weather and high winds are forecast for the weekend.

An update posted on the Three Rivers Fire 2021 Facebook page, maintained by the Southwest Incident Management Team in charge of efforts to suppress the fire, states data from a reconnaissance flight — using infrared sensing technology — shows the blaze was 5,507 acres and 13% contained as of late Friday morning.

That update came after rain and snow fell across the area throughout the day Thursday. The Thursday update had placed the fire at 12,000 acres and 5% contained.

Crews Friday pressed ahead, working to complete construction of containment lines, seek out hotspots and prevent them from flaring up, protect structures and assess possible impacts on natural resources. Despite the headway, crews are preparing for increased fire behavior this weekend.

Officials managing the response are concerned winds, combined with thickets of dense forest, dead and fallen timber, and steep terrain could fuel further fire activity.

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“Although the precipitation assisted in slowing the fire’s growth, warmer temperatures and winds are expected starting Saturday and over the next several days, potentially rekindling interior portions of the fire,” the update states.

No fatalities, injuries or burned structures associated with the Three Rivers Fire had been reported as of Friday.

The fire was first spotted Monday morning, a half-mile north of the Three Rivers Campground, before spreading toward the Ski Apache area and the South Fork/Bonito area, according to the update.

Road closures, as of Friday, remained in place for Bonito Canyon Road past the Bonito Lake Dam, Nogal Canyon Road past the Nogal Peak Trailhead, the Three Rivers Trailhead and Campground and Monjeau Lookout at Sierra Vista.

Evacuation orders put in place Monday after the fire was reported have since been lifted, though authorities warn that nearby residents should be prepared for such notices to possibly be reinstated should fire behavior increase again.

Though the village of Ruidoso and nearby areas are open to residents, the Lincoln National Forest and Apache Mescalero tribal lands remain under Stage 1 Fire restrictions.

According to the website of the U.S. Forest Service, such restrictions consist of a moratorium on starting, building, attending or using fire, unless in a structure such as a metal ring or on-site permanent grill, within developed campgrounds or day-use areas.

Propane grills, stoves and lanterns with an on/off switch are still permitted. Smoking is also restricted under the guidelines.

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

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