Friday, July 1, 2011

The Los Conchas Fire - New Mexico

Sunset over the Jemez - Jim Thompson (Abq Journal)
What began as a scary month for fire danger led off with several eerie evenings of smoke and haze drifting in from the Wallow Fire in Arizona, followed by the ominous Pacheco Canyon Fire that went up north of town near the Winsor trail , and ultimately the devastation of the Los Conchas Fire that has burned through parts of the Valles Caldera, Bandelier National Monument, Dome Wilderness, the Cochiti Canyons and Dixon's Apple Orchard, the Los Alamos Canyons, Pajarito, Caballo Mountain, and now north into Santa Clara Pueblo lands.

I've lots to share about my reflections on the fires and the areas now burned through but mostly just wanted to post some photos coming out of the Los Conchas. From the Albuquerque Journal who have done a fantastic job reporting on these fires:

Smoke settles in a recently burned canyon - Morgan Petroski (Abq Journal)

Pajarito and the Nordic Area around Canada Bonita weren't spared. The fire burned over the ridge and down into the Valles Caldera - Eddie Moore (Abq Journal)

Closer to town, access to most of the Santa Fe National Forest has been closed as has access to the Carson National Forest up north (Taos and surrounding areas). As recently as yesterday the city of Santa Fe has closed access to the Dale Ball Trail System, Dorothy Stewart, Atalaya, and the La Tierra Trails.

Bandelier suffered a direct hit although the recently remodeled Visitor's Center was unharmed. Most of the mesa tops and higher canyon areas to the west appear to be burned through including Frijoles, Lummis, and Alamo Canyons. Status of the Stone Lions is unknown, Painted Cave looks to be untouched - Morgan Petroski (Abq Journal)

Dixon's Apple Orchard was hit by flames rushing down Medio Dia Canyon, the orchard was spared but the dwellings weren't as lucky. For those familiar with Dixon's this is a particularly heartbreaking photo. The Dome and Bandelier Wilderness areas to the east appear to have been burned through - Pat Vasquez-Cunningham (Abq Journal)

Sunday evening on the mesas, easily visible from Santa Fe. Deja vu to witnesses of the Cerro Grande fire eleven years ago - Eddie Moore (Abq Journal)
I have run, skied, and taken the bike through many of the places captured in these images, some within the last few weeks. Spent most of my winter and spring in these canyons. I'm relieved that no one has been seriously hurt by any of this, but find it disheartening to think that these areas won't be the same again until I am an old man. Quiet beauty has become just, quiet.

Smoke flows from the canyons into the Rio Grande, above Cochiti Lake - Eddie Moore (Abq Journal)

The most recent thermal-imaging map of the fire area (.pdf)  - July 1, 2011 via,
 - Burn map dated June 30, 2011

The map shows active fires still burning in Bland Canyon in the south, in the remote lower canyons of Bandelier, and through the east and northeast boundaries of the Valles Caldera, and the western canyons of Santa Clara Pueblo.

UPDATE (7/6):
 - Subsequent days' burn maps can be found here. The burned acreage is now more than 130,000acres
 - A link to a Flickr album with photos of the damage at Ski Pajarito can be found at the


  1. Is La Tierra open or closed? The City web site has not mention of any closures. Some of the La Tierra entrances are open, others are taped/blocked. If you have any definite info, please drop me an email at . Cheers, Todd

  2. Todd, I'm hearing they're definitively open, along with the Rail Trail and the Galisteo Basin Preserve out by Eldorado. Regarding La Tierra I was told by multiple people that fencing was put up in error and most of it has since been taken down. In any case, La Tierra is open for the time being.



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