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Three Rivers Fire

Unit Information

Lincoln National Forest
U.S. Forest Service
3463 Las Palomas
Alamogordo, NM 88310

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Incident Contacts

Three Rivers Fire Information- Public
Phone: 575-386-5077
Hours: 8:00 AM - 8:00 PM

Three Rivers Fire Information - Media
Phone: 575-386-5108
Hours: 8:00 AM - 8:00 PM

Perimeter of the Three Rivers FireImage options: [ Full Size ]

Three Rivers Fire: New Mexico 

White Mountain Wilderness / Lincoln National Forest / Mescalero Apache Reservation 

The Three Rivers Fire was detected about one half mile from the Three Rivers Campground in the Lincoln National Forest at 8:42am on April 26, 2021. It was initially sized at 30 acres, but grew to 6100 acres by 7:00am on April 27, 2021 due to high winds and other favorable climate conditions for increased fire behavior. Local firefighters from the surrounding communities including Ruidoso Fire Department, Nogal Volunteer Fire Department, Lincoln Volunteer Fire Department, Glencoe Volunteer Fire Department, Capitan Volunteer Fire Department, among others worked closely with the USDA Forest Service on initial attack. Approximately 250 community members were impacted by evacuations in the surrounding areas. However, precipitation in the form of both rain and snow began falling on the fire during the night of April 26th and has continued on and off through the week, greatly reducing fire behavior. The fire entered the fire scar of the Little Bear Fire that burned in 2012, which also decreased fire activity as the vegetation was low to the ground and most was considered to be a fine fuel type (burns quickly, but not at a high temperature). At 1:00pm on April 27, 2021, evacuees were allowed to return to their homes with the warning that evacuations could recur if fire behavior increased. By the evening of April 27, 2021, the fire perimeter was sized at 12,000 acres including spot fires, meaning that embers from the main fire had blown into areas of unburned vegetation and caused small fires. Areas of unburned vegetation between the main fire and the spot fires were counted as part of this acreage but were not burned. After more accurate infrared mapping flights were conducted, the burned acres are now listed at 7,033. 

The incident transferred command to a Type 1 Incident Command team from the USDA Forest Service at 6:00am on April 28, 2021. Weather continued to be favorable for fire suppression, but leaders are cautious with public safety as the top priority. Rain and snow as well as mild temperatures for numerous days resulted in mild fire activity. Winds picked back up on Sunday, May 2, 2021, however fire lines continued to hold and there was minimal perimeter growth. After numerous days with no fire growth and minimal fire activity, the fire was transferred to a Type-3 Incident Management Team on May 4, 2021. 

Basic Information

Current as of
Incident TypeWildfire
CauseUnknown, Under Investigation
Date of OriginMonday April 26th, 2021 approx. 08:00 AM
LocationThe fire started ½ a mile north of Three Rivers Campground and has spread towards the North side of Ruidoso, NM, South side of Three Rivers Camp Ground and Mescalero.
Coordinates33.402 latitude, -105.871 longitude

Current Situation

Total Personnel242
Size7,033 Acres
Percent of Perimeter Contained30%
Estimated Containment DateSunday July 04th, 2021 approx. 12:00 AM
Fuels Involved

Short Grass (1 foot)

Timber (Grass and Understory)

Timber (Litter and Understory)


The fire has primarily been burning in non-compacted cured grasses and dead/downed timber fuels.

Significant Events





Overnight infrared detection of heat sources validated what on-site firefighters and lookouts observed in the morning.

The known hot spots from the previous several shifts were still present, but fewer and even less active than previous shifts.

Isolated hot spots or small clusters of hot spots remain in Little Bear and Big Bear Canyons, a small grouping in South Fork of Rio Bonito downslope from Bluefront Pond, several small smoldering areas further upcanyon in the South Fork of Rio Bonito downslope from Ice Spring, and only a few isolated heat sources above Indian Creek.


Planned Actions

Divisions will monitor and utilize appropriate tactics where needed to engage the fire.

The Lincoln National Forest (Smokey Bear Ranger District) and Bureau of Indian Affairs, (Mescalero Agency) will assume command under Type 3 IC Manuel Martinez on 05/04/21 at 10 pm

Projected Incident Activity

12 hours:

Moderate weather continues light westerly winds, humidity levels around 20%, and little cloud cover.

Continued burning out of isolated smoldering areas. No perimeter growth is expected.

24 hours:

Seasonal variation in high temperatures and low humidity and calm winds alternating with low temperatures, moderate humidity, and high winds are expected.

Generally, expect small-scale surges in fire activity during the afternoons alternating with smoldering overnight and into the late mornings.

Isolated pockets of fire are to be expected, rather than entire flanks of fire due to the heterogeneous nature of fuel continuity.

Smoldering in individual pockets of heat - primarily within the upper reaches of Big Bear

Canyon, on the eastern aspect of the South Fork of Rio Bonito, and the small area of heat in the saddle above Indian Creek.

48 hours:

Smoldering in individual pockets of heat - primarily within the upper reaches of Big Bear

Canyon and the small area of heat in the saddle above Indian Creek.

72 hours:

Smoldering in individual pockets of heat - primarily within the upper reaches of

Big Bear Canyon and the small area of heat in the saddle above Indian Creek.


Acreage adjusted due to more accurate mapping intelligence.

Fire is in Lincoln and Otero Counties.

Current Weather

Weather Concerns

Wednesday begins a ramp up to elevated fire weather conditions as high pressure builds back over the region.

Temperatures will rise to normal and above, relative humidity will drop back to low seasonal averages, and afternoons will become breezy to moderately windy.

For the upcoming weekend, the high pressure aloft flattens as shortwave disturbances pass to the north.

This will increase southwest winds and further dry out the region.

Winds over 30 mph and single-digit relative humidity should lead to critical fire weather conditions and possible Red Flag Warnings.