Officials: Days before Medio Fire brought under control

Firefighters were making progress Friday in battling the 610-acre Medio Fire north of Santa Fe, but they say it could be several more days it is brought under control.

The fire was 5 percent contained Friday and flames on the southeast side of the blaze have led to spot fires on both sides of the Rio en Medio trail.

Buck Wickham, operations section chief for the fire management team, said crews were trying to build lines to the south along the trail to box in the blaze, which has been burning east of Tesuque since Monday night.

Winds out of the north carried embers into a dense basin, setting it on fire and enabling spot fires on both sides of the trail.

“This is topographically challenged country,” Wickham said. “It is very steep ... and it’s very inaccessible. It is difficult for our crews to gain access.”

Wickham said crews were successful in forming lines along the western and northern ends of the blaze to keep it from spreading in those directions. The plan was to funnel the blaze toward an area in the Pecos Wilderness that was burned by the Pacheco Fire in 2011 to cut off its fuel sources.

“Those plans are dashed for right now,” Wickham said.

He said the fire could threaten some buildings along the Rio en Medio trail, but the goal is to treat areas around those structures to better protect them.

Fire officials had hoped to contain the blaze within six to seven days, but Wickham said he now anticipates it will take 10 to 11 days “unless something unforeseen happens.”

Some are concerned how smoke from the fire could affect people in Santa Fe and neighboring communities. Santa Fe’s air quality index was 62 Friday, according to data from the website IQAir, an independent Swiss-based company that develops air monitoring technology and products. That was 10 points higher than Thursday’s measurement but is still considered moderate. The scale goes as high as 500.

Sandy Hurlocker of the Española Ranger District for Santa Fe National Forest said the Forest Service has provided links to the Department of Health in its news releases so the public can learn what to do to help minimize the smoke’s impact on overall health.

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