Big Hole Fire – Valencia County, April 12, 2022

The Big Hole Fire, located north of River Road in the community of Belen in Valencia County, is now estimated at 850 acres and 0% contained. Crews made good progress securing fire lines overnight. Today firefighters are preparing for critical fire weather with Red Flag conditions forecasted through this evening. The fire continues to show activity on both sides of the Rio Grande. Bulldozers are being utilized to create a barrier between the fire and residences in the area. A Type 1 helicopter is scheduled to arrive this afternoon and will assist with water drops when safe to do so.

Approximately 200 structures remain threatened and evacuations are still in place for public safety. One residence and 18 outbuildings have been confirmed damaged or destroyed in the fire. Approximately 75% of the Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area (WWCA) land area has also been impacted. The WWCA center (building) is not affected.

La Merced Elementary School in Rio Communities has closed for the day. NM Highway 47 and Gabaldon Road in Belen have reopened, but this can change at any time pending weather conditions. Residents are urged to avoid the area and be prepared for potential evacuations if fire activity increases. More than 100 firefighters will continue to secure containment lines and mop up hot spots throughout the day. Multiple resources are working to contain the Big Hole Fire, including the Forestry Division, Valencia County Fire Department, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Albuquerque Fire Rescue, Rio Rancho Fire Department, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department Metro 1 helicopter, and the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Evacuation Center: Belen Recreation Center at 305 Eagle Lane.

Livestock and Pets: The Valencia County Sheriff’s Posse is currently stationed at the Tomé fire department with trucks and trailers for livestock evacuations. Those needing assistance may contact Liz Marquez at (505) 803-7373. The Valencia County Animal Shelter is available to receive small pets, 505-866-2479.

Smoke: Smoke-sensitive individuals and people with respiratory problems or heart disease are encouraged to take precautionary measures. The New Mexico Department of Health Environmental Public Health Tracking website can provide air quality information and protect your health. Visit for more information.  

Weather: According to the National Weather Service, a Red Flag Warning is in effect until 9 PM tonight (04/12) for the Middle Rio Grande Valley, central to northeast highlands, and eastern plains below snowpack due to strong winds, low relative humidity, and an unstable airmass. Light precipitation is forecast across northwest and north-central NM behind a cold front. Light mountain snow is possible. Freezing temperatures are also expected tonight (04/12).

Incident Name: Big Hole Fire

Start Date & Time: 04/11/2022 1330

Start Location: Belen Bosque North of River Road

Latitude: 34.6648

Longitude: -106.7469

Cause of Fire: Under investigation Area Vegetation: Bosque

Estimated Acres Burned: 850

Ownership(s): State and private

Structures Threatened: Yes

Structures Burned: Yes

Evacuations: Yes

Wendy Mason
Wildfire Prevention & Communications Coordinator
Energy, Minerals & Natural Resources Dept. (EMNRD)

Forestry Division

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