200 acres destroyed by bosque blaze


With more than 90 personnel and hundreds of acres on fire, the Pino Fire, which started in Bosque Friday afternoon, firefighters were able to protect more than a dozen structures threatened by flames.

The blaze broke out about 3:30 p.m. after a resident burning his yard, who didn’t extinguish it properly, let the fire get away from him, said Valencia County Fire Chief Steven Gonzales.

Clara Garcia-News-Bulletin photo: A firefighter watches as a fire destroys part of the bosque on Friday. More than 90 fire personnel responded to the Pino Fire Friday afternoon, protecting more than a dozen structures in Southern Valencia County and Northern Socorro County. A Jarales brush truck was destroyed when the winds caught firefighters off guard. Two firefighters received minor injuries.

“It took off into a salt cedar field and it ran east bound and got into the bosque,” Gonzales said.

Doug Boykin, Socorro district forester with New Mexico State Forestry, said Pat Pino, who lives on Pino Road, has been cited for reckless use of fire.

“(He) had burned some stuff a couple of days earlier and went back (Friday) just to be sure it was out, mixing it around. A spark flew out and the fire reignited. It was just bad luck on his part,” Boykin said. “We have cited him for reckless use of fire.”

Pino will be arraigned at 9 a.m., Wednesday, April 9, in Belen Magistrate Court.

Gonzales said the fire burned about 200 acres on both sides of the river, traveling south into Socorro County.

Using at least 56 different pieces of fire apparatus, firefighters from every county fire department, with the exception of Highland Meadows, along with personnel from Socorro County, N.M. Forestry, U.S. Forestry, Bureau of Land Management, N.M. Fish and Wildlife, Bernalillo County and Albuquerque Fire Department, responded to and fought Friday’s fire.

The conditions on Friday, which was declared a “no burn day” in the county, were not only dangerous for nearby residents, but for firefighters as well. Gonzales said the extreme fire danger and the shifting weather patterns made for an exhaustive and hazardous fire fight.

“It’s been very dry and it was a huge hurdle for us to get through,” Gonzales said of Friday’s fire. “The wind kept shifting every which way and we had increasing gusts throughout the night.”

The fire chief said two firefighters from the Jarales Fire Department sustained minor injuries, one who had a penny-sized burn to the palm of his hand and another who received a superficial half-dollar-sized burn to the back of his neck.

Clara Garcia-News-Bulletin photo: Firefighters were positioned near homes and other structures on Friday during the large 200-acre fire that started in Bosque, a small community at the county’s most southern end. According to fire officials, the blaze began after a property owner failed to properly extinguish a fire from the night before.

Both firefighters were treated on scene by medical personnel and returned back to fighting the blaze.

The firefighters who got hurt, Gonzales said, were injured when their brush truck caught on fire. The truck, which is a total loss, was described by Gonzales as looking like a marshmallow.

Replacing the brush truck is expensive, and the fire chief said he will be making an insurance claim to hopefully replace the apparatus.

Because of the amount of civilians trying to get a closer look at the fire on Friday, sheriff’s deputies and state police officers blocked off several roads in the area, including Carrejo Road, Pino Road and Camino Sabinal. State police were allowing only residents into the area off N.M. 116 and 304.

“We had about 15 to 18 structures, including homes, hay barns and out buildings, such as sheds, that were all threatened,” Gonzales said. “We were able to place structural protection to every one of them.

“I’m ecstatic the way our personnel responded and were able to fight this fire,” the chief said. “They were able to get a handle on it very quickly.

“The fire was able to thin out the bosque and it didn’t burn anyone’s property. I’m very proud of the way everyone handled the situation.”

As of Tuesday, the fire was fully contained, with GPS mapping putting its size at 207 acres.

New Mexico State Forestry spokesman Dan Ware says crews patrolled the fire line Tuesday to deal with any last areas of smoldering fuels in the burn area.

-- Email the author at cgarcia@news-bulletin.com.