Crews vigilantly continue to battle Bosque fire near La Joya despite winds

LA JOYA, N.M. (KRQE)Firefighters will likely continue working to keep a Bosque fire south of Belen from spreading. Throughout the day Tuesday, they were able to keep the fire near La Joya held back despite the fierce winds.

Heavy brush, loose sand and the remote location have been making it tough to fight the blaze, and it’s only going to get tougher. Officials say a red flag warning for high winds could send them back to square one.

Despite that threat, firefighters are optimistic. They say they’re making progress. A small fire flared up around 1:30 pm Tuesday but was quickly contained. There has been no additional growth.

On Monday, officials said the fire had grown to about 300 acres after jumping the river Sunday evening. So far, no one has been injured and no structures have been damaged.

Fire crews have been busy battling the large fire just outside of La Joya since Sunday.

Crews were called out to La Joya around 11 a.m. Sunday after residents spotted the first signs of trouble. One family reported they returned home from church when they smelled smoke, looked outside and saw flames rising from the brush.

By the time firefighters got on scene, about 20 miles south of Belen, the fire had grown to about 50 acres.

State Forestry officials said they were preparing for something like this, because of all the dry weather lately.

Throughout the day Sunday crews started laying fire lines with bulldozers, clearing the weeds and brush to help slow the flames.

Elsewhere, volunteer firefighters from multiple areas stood by, waiting to guard structures from the flames if necessary. A large firefighter presence was maintained in La Joya, at the Our Lady of Sorrows Church. At one point, flames got within about 300 yards of the church, while anxious neighbors looked on.

An air tanker was brought in to drop fire retardant, but other than that, crews have mostly just let the fire burn.

There was a lot of interest in the fire, with residents watching for nearby hills and homes, but officials are asking people to keep their distance.

“Do not try to go closer to the fire to get any better access. Leave all those secondary roads open for the firefighters so they can have good egress and they’ll be able to get into the fire and leave safely of they need to back up,” said Nick Smokovich, a State Forestry spokesperson.

On Sunday night, officials said no buildings were in danger but crews remained on scene overnight just in case.

Fire officials reassembled and brought in more crews to help dig additional fire lines on Monday. They said it could have been a lot worse if the winds hadn’t been so slow. However, if crews don’t manage to get the fire under control before Tuesday, it’s going to be a much different story.

As of Monday, officials said the fire was being upgraded from a Type 4 to a Type 3. They said this upgrade in severity will allow more resources to be called in.

Investigators say they believe it was human caused, but they’re still not clear on the details.

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