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Fire! Pajarito assesses damage; Mt. Abram Lodge burns

Coast to coast blazes lead today's news. Pajarito Mountain in New Mexico is just beginning to assess the damage from the devastating Las Conchas fire. So far, it appears as if a chairlift and several runs were scorched. While in Maine, a lightning strike ignited a fire at the Mt. Abram Lodge.

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With all the attention on fires in the Southwest, it was a surprise to hear that on July 6, 2011, the 50-year-old lodge at Mt. Abram Family Resort in Maine sustained heavy damage from a fire.

According to Associated Press reports, lightning from a severe thunderstorm likely sparked the blaze that engulfed the three-story structure. “We believe the fire started due to a lightning strike,” Al Curtis, chief of the Greenwood Fire Department, told the AP. In all, six fire departments and about 50 firefighters responded to the blaze.

Ski Maine executive director Greg Sweetser told SNEWS that the fire was limited to the main lodge and area officials are thankful the damage wasn’t even worse. “The ski rental and ski patrol buildings were not affected by the fire, but the whole area is entirely without power and communications right now,” he said. “It does look like it was a direct lightning strike on the top of (the) building, because it blew out all of the third-floor windows. It’s a really good thing that no one was in there at the time.”

Meanwhile, the devastating Las Conchas fire near Los Alamos, N.M., has now destroyed 131,000 acres and 63 homes and is still only 40 percent contained. Los Alamos residents, who were evacuated on June 27, were allowed back into their homes on July 3. But fire officials are still only providing limited access to Pajarito Mountain ski area, where at least one ski lift was damaged in the fire.

The area’s general manager and two members were allowed to tour the 750-acre ski area, and sent the following information to passholders in an e-mail:


All buildings intact.


Chair 1 (Spruce): Base OK, top lift shack and unloading ramp destroyed, haul cable failed, chair line on the ground. Photos of that have been circulating on news sites and social media.

Chair 2 (Mother): Base OK, top station OK, lift line intact, no visible damage.

Chair 3 (Beginner): Undamaged.

Chair 4 (Aspen): Base OK, top station OK, lift line intact, possible haul rope damage midway up.

Chair 5 (Townsight): Base OK, top lift shack and unloading ramp destroyed, haul rope damaged.


Aspen House: Undamaged.

Lunsford Deck (behind Chair 1 top station): Undamaged.

Sunier Deck (east of Chair 2 top station): Destroyed.

Pond and all pump stations: Undamaged.

Comms towers: Structures intact.


Considerable burn damage in the Townsight area between the east boundary and Hedache.

Central zone from Bonanza to Big Mother: isolated burn areas, some quite extensive, especially towards the bottom of the runs.

Fab four: substantially intact, but not fully inspected.

Rim Run area: heavily burned in places, Milt’s Meadow, Gene’s Choice and Ma Bell area and west destroyed. I’ve uploaded a number of photos of the area to Flickr.

Camp May Road will be closed to all traffic for some time while mopping up, damage and hazard assessments are made, but the ski area will be reopened for public access as soon as possible.

There will be a lot of work (and many volunteer opportunities) involved in getting the area back into a fully operable condition. More information on recovery work will be available once the area is released by the Fire Department and the ski area staff can get back permanently.

There is no current timetable for beginning clean-up efforts on the mountain, especially as there are still spot fires burning on and near the ski area. Pajarito officials have not returned invitations for an interview, but a posting on the ski area’s Facebook page on July 6 did state: “Once it is safe to have volunteers on the mountain we will call in the troops.”

Peter Kray

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