New Mexico ARES Units Support Wildfire Communications
New Mexico Amateur Radio operators assisted local government officials in the wake of the Tres Lagunas wildfire in steep, rugged terrain 15 north of Pecos. The San Miguel, New Mexico, Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) team activated May 31 in response to a request from the county’s emergency manager to support communication for the San Miguel County EOC in Pecos. The blaze, aided by high winds and dry conditions, covered more than 10,200 acres and the cause was attributed to a downed power line.
“San Miguel ARES provided communications support for 5 days at the county communications trailer at Pecos High School,” reported New Mexico ARRL SEC Michael Scales, K5SCA. “Ten San Miguel ARES hams were involved.” ARES team members operated radios in the EOC, maintained a relay station in Las Vegas, New Mexico, and traveled with three volunteer fire departments in the county, Scales added, while Santa Fe ARES remained on standby during the period, in case additional resources were needed.
Scales says ARES also provided communication support to the San Miguel County emergency operations in Pecos, the New Mexico State EOC operations in Pecos, the county evacuation shelter at Pecos High School and three volunteer fire departments conducting patrols near the Tres Lagunas fire looking for spot fires and assisting people with respiratory problems. Responding to a request from the county emergency manager, San Miguel ARES offered communication support to state police in the Pecos area, since cell phone service was down in, although the assistance was not needed.
Scales reports that San Miguel ARES also was instrumental in reporting a spot fire in the Las Vegas City watershed, which was extinguished quickly by air tankers from the Tres Lagunas operations. Communication support for the mobile communications van in Pecos was terminated by the Tres Lagunas Fire incident commander in mid-June, and the fire was considered 100 percent contained on July 5.
The Pecos/Las Vegas Ranger District, including the Pecos Wilderness, was closed due to extreme fire danger, and traffic on Highway 63 was limited. New Mexico Game and Fish lands in the Pecos Canyon also were closed to all recreational use. Residents were being urged to drive slowly and with extreme caution in the vicinity of the fire zone. — Michael A. Scales, K5SCA; InciWeb.org