'High-risk' wildfire under control near Witt Road, Taos Canyon


Updated June 27 at 9 p.m.

Firefighters fought a fast-moving, "high-risk" wildland fire in the area of Witt Road near Taos Canyon late Tuesday afternoon (June 27). By around 8 p.m. the blaze appeared to be under control, though no official confirmation has been received from officials.

"High-risk" means that a fire can spread quickly and might threaten homes and other structures, posing a risk to both firefighting personnel and nearby residents.

Volunteer, county and town firefighters responded to the scene shortly after reports of the fire were disseminated around 6 p.m. via Taos Central Dispatch.

Local police and sheriff's deputies were dispatched to nearby roads and assisted in evacuating homes near encroaching flames, which leapt eastbound through dry grass, sagebrush fields and cottonwoods on moderate 15 mile per hour winds. Trees could be heard "exploding" as fire engulfed tree trunks, causing tree sap to expand and wood to split apart. "It's going tree to tree guys," one firefighter was overheard saying via emergency channels around 6:20 p.m. "Be careful."

Sgt. Jason Rael of the Taos County Sheriff's Office arrived on the scene shortly after 6 p.m. to assist in closing Witt Road. "I just spoke with the fire marshal," he said. "It looks like the fire is around Witt Road and is turning east toward Taos Canyon. It's about a 2-acre wildfire at this time."

Rael stated that a second alarm was sent out to fire departments, including wildland fire and other resources, as the fire continued to spread quickly, but seemed to slow at the boundaries of lines cut by firemen and acequias. "We're keeping all options open as a fire of this nature can get out of hand," he said.

Bystanders watched as wildland fire helicopters arrived on the scene after 6:30 p.m. carrying water buckets that doused the fire, while wildland firefighting crews revved chainsaws to cut line to curb the spread of the fire.

By around 8 p.m., the smoke that had been visible for miles around had diminished and radio chatter went quiet.

Taos County Fire Chief Michael Cordova has been contacted for more details on the cause of the fire, the extent of its damage and how emergency personnel appeared to quell the blaze in a relatively short matter of time.

This story is developing and will be updated as more information becomes available.

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