Crews contain fire that threatened watershed, caused evacuations

Crews contain fire that threatened watershed, caused evacuations

From the Las Vegas Optic

Fire crews from multiple agencies have contained a fire that threatened the city’s water supply and caused the evacuation of the United World College-USA.

The Peterson Fire began Friday afternoon around 1:30 p.m., fueled by sustained winds of 15 to 20 mph, according to officials with the New Mexico Forestry Division. The fire was 80 percent contained, as of this writing, and crews had shifted focus to putting out hot spots.

Threat of smoke and road closures in the area cause the evacuation of UWC-USA Friday afternoon. Carl-Martin Nelson with UWC-USA told the Optic that school security notified him of the fire around 2 p.m. Friday, and “out of an abundance of caution,” school officials evacuated the roughly 220 students on campus.

Students were taken to the Abe Montoya Recreation Center where cots and blankets were provided. Officials were prepared to house the students at the recreation center for days if needed, but by Saturday morning, fire crews had made progress containing the flames, and all UWC-USA students were allowed to return.

The fire burned about 30 acres before crews were able to contain it, and as of this writing, the total area burned remained at 30 acres with no structures burned. The UWC-USA evacuation was voluntary, and no evacuations were ordered.

The fire burned land on both sides of Highway 65, near the Peterson Reservoir and the Peterson Dam, key components in Las Vegas’ water supply chain. The threat to these watershed components resulted in the City of Las Vegas issuing a news release Friday afternoon asking residents to conserve water, but it did not provide further details or offer an explanation as to why water conservation was necessary.

Mayor Louie Trujillo told the Optic Friday evening that crews had prevented the fire from endangering the reservoir, dam or water treatment facility.

Crews continued to battle the fire as the Optic went to press, but Forestry Division officials said no structures were currently threatened.