Timeline of Bluewater and Diener Canyon Fires - Mt. Taylor Ranger District

April 2 - 8 – Fuel samples to determine the fuel moisture levels were taken and weather forecasts were determined for the Redondo Prescribed Burn. Appropriate reviews were completed, notifications were made to the community, resources were ordered, and contingencies were identified.

Monday, April 9 – The day of the Redondo Prescribed Burn, parameters were reassessed and conditions were within prescription. The Redondo Prescribed Burn was ignited and crews burned 1,300 acres.

Tuesday, April 10 – Another 510 acres were successfully burned and ignitions were stopped at 2:00 pm to keep the burning within the prescription level. Operations were stopped a day and a half early and the treatment area was reduced by about 1,000 acres due to predicted high winds. Crews mopped up and secured the boundaries. All activities were conducted within prescribed conditions.

Wednesday, April 11 – Crews continued to mop up and secure the boundaries of the prescribed burn.

Thursday, April 12 – The district received two smoke reports early Thursday morning. Resources from the Redondo Prescribed Burn were shifted to initial attack on the two new starts, the Bonita Fire (in the Zuni Mountains) and the La Mosca Tank Fire (on Mount Taylor). No lightning had been reported, so the cause of these fires was unknown.

Conditions at this time were extreme due to the high winds (50-70 mph). A spot fire occurred outside the boundary of the prescribed burn. Initial attack crews used indirect tactics because of the hazards.

Fire managers determined the Redondo Prescribed burn was no longer meeting the desired objectives, and it was declared a wildfire Thursday afternoon per Forest Service policy. The area outside the Redondo Burn boundary was named the Diener Canyon Fire and managed as a wildfire incident.

During suppression of the Diener Canyon Fire, we received an additional smoke report near Bluewater Lake. Crews on their way to the Diener Canyon Fire were immediately diverted to the Bluewater Fire. Within minutes, it grew from 1 acre to 50 acres.  McKinley County Emergency Services ordered evacuations based on the fire’s potential. The focus was on public and firefighter safety as well as protecting homes in Bluewater Acres, Bluewater subdivision, and Bluewater State Park. Air Support was unavailable due to the windy conditions. These were later changed to pre-evacuation notices. Bluewater State Park evacuated voluntarily.

A complexity analysis determined the need for a higher level of incident management and a Type 1 team was ordered. The Bluewater Fire was about 500 acres on Thursday. Due to the sequence of events and the fact that there was no lightning activity, investigations were ordered to determine the causes of these fires.  

Friday, April 13 - The Southwest Area Type 1 Incident Management Team transitioned with the Type 3 Team.  Agency Administrators from the Forest Service, State Forestry and Bureau of Land Management delegated management to the Type 1 team. The Team was briefed with local cooperating agencies.

Saturday, April 14 – The Type 1 team assumed command of the Diener Canyon and Bluewater fires at 6:00 am. An investigation determined that multiple spot fires from the Redondo prescribed burn caused the Diener Canyon Fire. The La Mosca Tank and Bluewater fires were determined to be human-caused by abandoned campfires. The Bonita was also human-caused.