JEMEZ, N.M. (KRQE) – The El Cajete Fire has grown to about 1,315 acres. It started Thursday morning west of Los Alamos in the Santa Fe National Forest. It closed Highway 4 and had more than 100 panicked residents leaving their homes.
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Sky News 13 video shows the flames moving away from their homes and heading toward old burn scars.
Meanwhile, 175 firefighters are battling the blaze.
Residents like Jim Rightley say it never gets any easier to leave their homes behind.
“I was just trying to stay calm enough to pack everything without panicking, but when you’re watching fire constantly and on the ground, I mean it’s only a hundred of feet from you,” Rightley said.
“Now we just sit and wait and hope that the weather cooperates,” Janet Lovato said.
But for those who stayed behind, officials say there’s only so much warning they can give.
“We’ll come back, ask you to leave again, but at some point when it becomes too hazardous to go back in then we have to let them know you’re on your own,” Sandoval County Lt. Keith Elder said.
Just five miles west of the Valles Caldera, the smoke became so thick it blocked State Highway 4.
Some crews tackled the fire from behind and worked to put out hot spots, while others from the air tried to contain the fire from reaching homes.
With how fast the fire moved, crews say it’s going to be an uphill battle.
“If this is an area that hasn’t burned previously then it’s probably overgrown and it adds to the intensity of the fire,” officials said.
Thursday, most of the firefight was from the air, and because of that, officials want to remind people not to fly drones near any wildfire.