COYOTE, N.M. (AP) – Residents in the small community of Coyote say they feel isolated and uninformed about the dangers from a wildfire burning in northern New Mexico’s Jemez Mountains.
Officials said Wednesday the lightning-sparked Diego Fire that has charred more than 5 square miles remained zero percent contained. Nearly 600 firefighters and support personnel were hoping more favorable weather would help tame the flames burning about 8 miles south of Coyote.
Coyote residents Jeremiah Rosethorn and his wife, Corine, told the Santa Fe New Mexican that they noticed heavy smoke late last week, which since had come and gone.
“This morning there was so much smoke you couldn’t see or breathe,” Corine Rosethorn said Tuesday.
The couple said they didn’t know about a community meeting held Monday night by fire officials at the Coyote Elementary School and have been piecing together information about the fire by asking local post office employees.
Officials began urging residents Monday in several communities outside of Coyote to evacuate. But by Tuesday evening, no one had arrived at the Rural Event Center in Abiquiu, a facility designated as the evacuation center for people and animals.
Richard Nieto, incident commander for the Southwest Incident Management Team, said officials in New Mexico can’t force evacuations but can only recommend that residents leave.
Rancher Phil Branch said his herd of cattle is spread out in the area of the fire danger and he fears they are in serious troubled.
“It really hurts to see the loss we are going through,” said Branch. “The loss that I envision, the loss I haven’t seen yet, that I really don’t want to see.”