News that doesn't receive the necessary attention.

Friday, July 1, 2016

US federal government admits accidentally starting 18,000 acre New Mexico fire during failed forest clearing effort involving a malfunctioning wood chipper-Albuquerque Journal

The fire began Tues., 6/21/16, destroyed 24 homes and 21 minor structures, and as of 6/24/16, cost $5.7 million just in supplies, equipment, and salaries.

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7/1/16, "Forest Service confirms brush clearing started Dog Head Fire," Albuquerque Journal, Rick Nathanson, Chilili

"U.S. Forest Service officials on Friday confirmed Journal reports that the cause of the Dog Head Fire in the Manzano Mountains was tied to a federally funded wildland brush and wood clearing effort designed to prevent fires.

Specifically they said the 18,000 acre blaze was started by a masticator, a forest thinning or brush cutting machine. The clearing effort — known as the Collaborative Landscape Restoration Project — is a joint effort of Isleta Pueblo, Forest Service and Chilili Land Grant.

An Isleta crew was working the masticator in the area the day the fire started and members called their pueblo officials about 11:24 a.m. June 14 as soon as they saw the first flames, Forest Service officials said. Pueblo officials notified the U.S. Forest Service Mountainair Ranger District about the same time Forest Service lookout at Capilla Peak southwest of the fire spotted smoke.

The Albuquerque office of the Forest Service dispatched two firefighting trucks and a battalion chief within minutes of being notified, officials told a crowd of about 100 people inside the Chilili Gymnasium Friday.

They said they did not know if the Isleta crew members made any immediate efforts to fight the fire themselves.

Forestry and other experts already are planning mitigation efforts to minimize runoff damage from the upcoming monsoon season and some effort should begin as early as next week.

Restoration of the area is expected to be less difficult than anticipated because the effect of the fire on the soil was much less damaging than first thought, said Cody Stropki, a watershed scientist with SWCA Environmental Consultants. Restoration will be easier because the seed banks, those seeds still the ground and ready for new growth, were not destroyed in many areas, he told the Journal.

Officials refused to release information about the cause, and which agencies responded and when until Friday during a news conference that began just before noon at the Chilili Gym. Many details still were not discussed because the fire still is under investigation, they said.

The Journal reported Thursday that many area residents already had identified the cause of the fire.

That’s been the word on the street from the get-go, that the Isleta Pueblo was chipping wood and that’s what caught on fire,” East Mountain resident Debbie Battaglino told the Journal.

Multiple sources told the Journal on Thursday that a heavy-equipment masticator chipping or clearing wood and brush malfunctioned, sparking the blaze.

Most agencies involved in the fire did not return request for comment on Thursday.

According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture website, the Isleta thinning project is one of 39 projects funded nationwide through the $40 million Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership.

The Isleta Project, the only one funded in New Mexico, has had a goal of reducing “the potential for uncharacteristic wildfires and aimed to “protect community, cultural, and natural resources by accelerating hazardous fuels treatments where the Isleta Pueblo, Chilili Land Grant and Cibola National Forest meet.”"

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6/24/16, "Dog Head Fire containment reaches 83 percent," koat.com

"Dog Head Fire is human caused, fire officials say."




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