Weeklong fire burns near Mosquero

Fire takes estimated 23,000 acres; lightning determined as cause.


June 17, 2020

Robert L. Casados (courtesy photo)

A firefighter sets up a back fire near Mosquero on June 8. The Farm Camp Fire burned almost 23,000 acres before it was brought under control Sunday.

A weeklong wildfire that burned almost 23,000 acres and briefly threatened the village of Mosquero was brought under control by Sunday.

Mosquero Mayor Victor Vigil said Sunday afternoon the fire was "pretty well out," and dozens of firefighters who'd battled the blazed the blaze for a week were heading back home.

Vigil said he saw no evidence of smoke in the area Sunday, and state forestry officials were keeping an eye on it for flare-ups.

A New Mexico Department of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources spokeswoman reported Sunday afternoon during its final report the so-called Farm Camp Fire five miles west of Mosquero in Harding County was 90% contained.

"The fire received some light rain last night, and all containment lines are holding," the report stated. "Firefighters are working to secure containment lines and mop up interior pockets of fuels, which may continue to produce smoke."

The agency reported the total acreage burned was 22,872.

Lightning about 6 p.m. June 6 ignited the blaze, which burned through thousands of acres of grass and pinon and juniper trees below and above the caprock. The blaze jumped Highway 39 north of Mosquero and prompted a brief voluntary evacuation of the village. The fire destroyed one unoccupied home.

Weeks of little to no rain, gusty winds and rough terrain in the canyons hampered dozens of firefighters who battled the blaze.

Vigil said the a voluntary evacuation was issued the evening of June 8, when the fire raced up a brush-choked draw about a half-mile from town. Firefighters made a fire line "as wide as an airport runway" around it and stationed eight to 10 tanker trucks to beat back the flames, with eight to 10 more trucks on standby.

He singled out village maintenance worker Rocky Moxley for playing a valuable role in filling the tanker trucks.

"I have to hand it to Rocky; he was doing everything he could to make sure anything that holds water had water," Vigil said. "When you have 30 to 40 trucks and you're trying to keep them full, that's a task in itself."

The school district issued a text about the voluntary evacuation through its emergency system. People also went door to door to warn residents about he the fire.

When asked how many fire departments helped with the fire, Vigil laughed. He couldn't recall them all, but he named Mosquero, Harding County, Roy, Rosebud, Amistad, Tucumcari, Logan, San Jon and Porter. He said the New Mexico Department of Transportation also provided equipment. Managers at Bell Ranch made fire lines in an effort to blunt the inferno's spread.

"We brought everything we could when (the fire) was near the town," Vigil said.

Pete Callahan, owner of Callahan West Brewery in Mosquero, opened his business as a food-and-water station for firefighters. Callahan, whose brewery had been closed for weeks because of COVID-19 restrictions, also cooked hamburgers, sandwiches and pizzas.

"I like doing my part," Callahan said. "What they did was appreciated."

The Mosquero High School gymnasium also was opened as a sleeping area for firefighters, Vigil said.

At one point when the wind shifted to the north June 9, Tucumcari residents smelled the smoke, which also produced a haze that obscured the area's mesas. The fire also grew large enough it could be easily seen in National Weather Service satellite images.

Vigil said aid pouring in from all areas was deeply appreciated.

"Especially when people all over the world aren't getting along, you come to these rural areas, it's a totally different atmosphere," he said. "If there's trouble, they're going to be there to help you."

The village is asking for donations of hay, trucking or cash to help small ranchers whose cattle lost pasture grass in the fire. Those who wish to help can call Rocky Moxley at (575) 512-5598 or by mailing a contribution to P.O. Box 23, Mosquero, NM 87733.


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