New Mexico wildfire threatens historic buildings

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 05, 2013 2:20 PM

By Zelie Pollon

SANTA FE, N.M (Reuters) - Firefighters in New Mexico battled on Wednesday to contain a wildfire threatening historic buildings in a national preserve as well as a sacred Native American cultural site at the top of a mountain engulfed in flames.

The Thompson Ridge Fire burning about 40 miles west of Santa Fe has consumed almost 9,400 acres and remains only 5 percent contained, said Dana Howlett, a spokeswoman for the team handling the incident.

Firefighters worked through the night on Tuesday and into Wednesday morning to protect the Ranch Headquarters Historic District, which is situated at the north end of the Valles Caldera National Preserve entrance and includes an old ranch house, The Bond Cabin, built in 1918 and a ranch foreman's cabin which was constructed a year later.

"The big fire going on until 3 a.m. was on the east side, coming very close to the Valles Caldera Historic District. So they're being very heavily protected today," Howlett said.

He said the Thompson Ridge Fire also reached Redondo Peak, which is sacred to the Jemez Pueblo tribe and other Pueblo Indians, but firefighters were able to protect the very top of the mountain, which is a sacred cultural site.

The northeast side and top of the mountain has not been burned, but the extent of the damage to the rest of the mountain will not be known until the fire has been put out, Howlett said.

Nearly 600 firefighters, three air tankers and nine helicopters were tackling the blaze.

To the east of Santa Fe, firefighters also focused on protecting more than 30 summer homes in the Holy Ghost Canyon area threatened by the Tres Lagunas Fire, which had grown to 9,217 acres and was 15 percent contained.

The threat from the Tres Lagunas Fire forced authorities to close the Santa Fe National Forest and Pecos Las Vegas Ranger District to all public entry.

In California, firefighters have quelled the growth of the Powerhouse Fire in northwest Los Angeles County. It remained at about 32,000 acres on Wednesday and was 65 percent contained.

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Tim Gaynor; Editing by Sandra Maler)