An illegal campfire that was abandoned before it was extinguished grew into the 700-acre Wolf Draw Fire that persists 30 miles north of Cuba in Santa Fe National Forest.
Tuesday was day No. 4 of the fire, which has been battled with airplanes, helicopters and about 140 people, said Julie Anne Overton of the U.S. Forest Service.
“The good news is it did not grow since yesterday,” Overton said Tuesday afternoon.
Matt Garcia, a spokesman for the Northern New Mexico Type 3 Incident Management Team overseeing the firefighting effort, said law enforcement investigators determined it started at the site of a smoldering campfire in the northwest corner of the national forest.
That area is under Stage 1 fire restrictions, which prohibit dispersed campfires.
Propane grills and propane stoves are still OK, Garcia said, because the fuel is controlled and there are no residual embers.
The fire was 20 percent contained Tuesday evening, but Garcia noted harsh winds, high temperatures and low humidity could cause it to spread.
The extreme drought in the region has caused wood, pine needles, cones and other fuel for fires to be highly combustible.
Garcia said the fire is burning in rugged terrain and difficult to fight.
Three helicopters have been used as well as two planes that are able to scoop water out of El Vado Lake and drop it on the fire. A small double-engine plane has flown high above to supervise the fight and several tankers including a DC-10 jet have been used to drop a soapy retardant on the fire.
Most of the aircraft weren’t used Tuesday, Garcia said.
Firetrucks, a bulldozer and other equipment also have been used against the Wolf Draw Fire. Overton said the fire is “smoldering and creeping” along because of the rain.
But Garcia said the fire crews can’t let up. “It’s not fully contained yet,” he said.
There had been no injuries as of late Tuesday afternoon.