Ski Pajarito from the bottom of the Townsight Lift (#5) on June 29, 2011. (photo: LANL)

Firefighters Continue to Battle Las Conchas Fire from Pajarito Mountain Ski Area

Los Alamos, NM – The Las Conchas wildfire in New Mexico’s Jemez Mountains above Los Alamos, now the state’s largest in history at 130,691 acres, has been 30 percent contained by firefighters as of Wednesday afternoon but still threatens further damage to Pajarito Mountain ski area.

Ski Pajarito from the bottom of the Townsight Lift (#5) on June 29, 2011. (photo: LANL)
Ski Pajarito from the bottom of the Townsight Lift (#5) on June 29, 2011. (photo: LANL)

The fire, which began June 26, first made a run at the ski area overnight June 27 into 28. While firefighters were able to successfully defend the base lodge and other buildings reports indicate that “hot spots” scorched many of the ski runs and caused the cable of the resort’s Spruce chairlift, #1, to snap.

The resort’s Townsight area sustained the most damage, and the top lift shack of the Townsight chairlift has been heavily burned. “The ski area management team has assessed the damage and are developing initial recovery plans,” the resort has posted on its website. “Three of the chairlifts and all buildings are intact.”

Infrared imaging today indicates that isolated heat sources still exist near the mountain’s summit. Firefighters expect hot, dry conditions this afternoon with southwesterly winds. These winds may push the fire in a northeasterly direction. There is a chance of terrain-driven runs along drainages, which will push the fire upslope. With a probability of thunderstorms, firefighters will be watching for gusty, variable winds that can cause erratic fire behavior.

As winds shift to the southwest, firefighters expect the fire to spread at a slightly higher rate in the direction of the ski area, which will also increase the likelihood for spotting. Today, firefighters plan to conduct burn-outs along Forest Trail 287 and to develop and reinforce contingency lines where needed, according to a statement released early Monday afternoon.

An interagency investigative team led by New Mexico State Forestry has been determined that the Las Conchas Fire was caused by a fallen aspen tree that caught fire after coming into contact with nearby power lines. Sixty three homes have been destroyed in the blaze, and another 410 remain threatened.

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