Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES®) volunteers in New Mexico are responding to the Dog Head fire, which is affecting Torrance and Bernalillo counties, according to ARRL New Mexico Section Emergency Coordinator Bill Mader, K8TE. Mandatory evacuations have been under way in both counties. The fire has claimed 24 homes and 21 “other minor structures,” fire officials said. The cause of the fire, which now comprises more than 16,000 acres, remains under investigation. ARES teams in Torrance and Valencia counties have activated, and Sandoval County ARES is on standby. Mader anticipates that the State of New Mexico Emergency Operations Center (EOC), where he is stationed, will shift to 24/7 operation by this evening (June 17).
“Torrance and Bernalillo counties have a big problem, as they ‘welcome’ the 2016 fire season,” Mader told New Mexico Section Manager Ed James, KA8JMW, adding that the fire is showing no signs of slowing down. “ARES has sprung into action with direct support of the Incident Command in Torrance County.” The Capilla Peak 146.96 repeater and the Tapia Mesa 147.06 repeater are the primary emergency communication channels for the Dog Head Fire. Mader has estimated that VHF/UHF repeater coverage would likely meet all ARES communication needs.
The Dog Head fire is some 6 miles northwest of Tajique, New Mexico, and at this point has not been contained. Evacuation centers have been set up in Estancia, at the Torrance County Fairgrounds (for residents, pets, and livestock), and in Tijeras at the Los Vecinos Community Center for evacuees.
Fire officials report extreme fire behavior with tree torching expected. The weather is forecast to be Hot and dry into the weekend with very low humidity. The National Weather Service has issued an air quality alert for the area near the fire through mid-day Friday.
FEMA has posted New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming as “elevated fire weather areas.” — Thanks to New Mexico SEC Bill Mader, K8TE, and Assistant SEC Jay Miller, W5WHN, for some information