As of Monday, June 18, two massive wildfires – the High Park Fire, west of Fort Collins, Colo., and the Little Bear Fire near Ruidoso, N.M. – continued to burn amid record heat and tinder dry drought conditions. The fires have claimed one life and have destroyed hundreds of homes owned by consumers of Tri-State member systems Poudre Valley REA (Fort Collins, Colo.) and Otero County Electric, based in Cloudcroft, N.M.
The High Park Fire, which was ignited by lightning 11 days ago, has caused one death, consumed more than 58,000 acres and destroyed 182 homes on the lines of Poudre Valley REA. The blaze was 45 percent contained as of Monday, June 18.
“Right now we have about 800 to a thousand residential services disconnected,” said Myles Jensen, member services manager for Poudre Valley. “Line crews were on call over the weekend to respond to requests by fire management authorities to turn off power and restore power to areas as needed to protect fire fighters,” he said. “One area of particular concern right now is Glacier View on the north side of the fire. There are quite a few homes that could be in jeopardy if the fire expands there,” said Jensen.
In New Mexico, the Little Bear Fire has burned about 40,000 acres north of Ruidoso, all of which is electrically served by Otero County Electric. Preliminary estimates from the local media have reported that 242 homes and businesses have been destroyed by this blaze. Fortunately, this fire, which was also started by a lightning strike on June 4, is now 75 percent contained.
“Although the fire literally came right up to the back door of our co-op field office in Alto, we only lost about 30 poles,” said Clint Gardner, Otero’s manager of member services. “Many of our members were not so lucky – this fire has been devastating to our communities,” he said.
The Little Bear Fire has impacted more than 30 percent of Otero County’s service territory, mainly in the communities of Alto, Loma Grande and south of Capitan. “The next big concern that we are going to have once the fire is out will be the potential for flooding once the rain starts,” added Gardner.