Cajete Fire: Some evacuees allowed to return home Friday to grab items

JEMEZ, N.M. (KRQE) – The Cajete Fire continues to intensify in the Santa Fe National Forest. It started Thursday morning between Los Alamos and Jemez Springs.

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Friday, the firefight continued as some evacuees were allowed back into their homes, but only to grab important items.

“I feel like I won the lottery,” said Besty Stauffer.

It’s an unusual feeling for someone whose home was so close to danger.

“We’ve been through lots of fires before, however, this is pretty close,” Stauffer said.

She said her home is less than a quarter mile from where the Cajete Fire has burned through at least 700 acres in the Jemez Mountains, with no containment.

Friday, Stauffer says she was counting her blessings.

“I received a miracle,” she said.

Stauffer says no one was home when fire crews went around asking about 300 residents in several communities to evacuate Thursday morning.

“That’s tough, to know that your pets are there,” she explained. “The rest we can live without. We’ve got our family, our pets,” she said.

“A lot of neighbors are very concerned because their houses are in trees,” explained Chris Bjornberg. He was also evacuated.

Those who had to leave their community agree, “It’s good to have the neighborhood sort of coming together and everybody help each other out,” he said.

“We’re just really grateful for the firefighters who are putting their lives out there to put it out,” Stauffer said.

Right now people who have evacuated are staying at a church in La Cueva and lodging in Jemez Springs.

Highway 4 is expected to stay closed at least through the weekend.

Several residents in La Cueva also stepped up.

Monica Tolleson received a phone call at the closing time of her Snack Shack. She was asked to provide breakfast for first responders.

“I drove to Walmart and got here at midnight last night and they came by and picked up 120 burritos this morning at 7 o’clock,” she said.

Heidi Downs owns La Cueva Lodge. She’s been housing evacuees and is proud of her community.

“We’re helping with water, we’re helping with housing and animals and whatever everyone else needs,” said Downs.

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