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Massive New Mexico Wildfire Traced to U.S. Forest Service Planned Burns

Massive New Mexico Wildfire Traced to U.S. Forest Service Planned Burns

New Mexico largest wildfire only now nearing 50% containment mark.

Late last month, I noted that large wildfires had already consumed over 100,000 acres in four states.

The devastation in New Mexico was historic. The largest of the active wildfires is still less than 50% contained.

Crews in northern New Mexico have cleared and cut containment lines around nearly half of the perimeter of the nation’s largest active wildfire while bracing for a return of weather conditions that might fan flames and send embers aloft, officials said Thursday.

The 7-week-old fire east of Santa Fe was boxed in around 46% of its 635-mile (1,022-kilometer) perimeter, enclosing an area larger than Oklahoma City.

Recent weather that included lighter winds, cloud cover and light rain and snow in some areas helped firefighters’ effort to surround the fire and slow its growth. But forecasts for Friday and through the holiday weekend call for higher temperatures, less humidity and stronger winds.

The National Weather Service issued fire weather watches for the region on Saturday.

Fire behavior analyst Stewart Turner said at a briefing Thursday night he doesn’t expect “any big growth” in the blaze on Friday, but that could change because “we are extremely dry.”

Reports indicate that the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) started the two blazes that grew into New Mexico’s largest wildfire in history.

Forest Service investigators determined the Calf Canyon Fire was caused by a “burn pile” of branches that the agency thought was out but reignited on April 19, the Santa Fe National Forest said in a statement.

That blaze on April 22 merged with the Hermits Peak Fire, which the USFS started with a controlled burn that went out of control on April 6, the agency previously reported.

The combined blaze has so far torched over 312,320 acres(126,319 hectares) of mountain forests and valleys, an area approaching the size of greater London, and destroyed hundreds of homes.

Prescribed burns often are used in wildland areas that are too vast to thin by hand or machine. The two fires started by the USFS east of Santa Fe joined in April to form the massive blaze in the Sangre de Cristo range.

One of the fires was previously traced to April 6, when a prescribed burn, set by firefighters to clear out small trees and brush, was declared out of control.

On Friday, investigators said they had tracked the source of the second fire to the remnants of a prescribed winter fire that lay dormant through several snowstorms only to flare up again last month.

Investigators said the prescribed “pile burn” was initiated in January at Gallinas Canyon in the Santa Fe National Forest outside Las Vegas, New Mexico, and concluded in the final days of that month. Fire was reported again in the same vicinity April 9 and escaped control 10 days later amid dry, hot and windy conditions, Forest Service investigators found.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in a statement called the investigation results a “first step toward the federal government taking full responsibility” for the New Mexico wildfire. She highlighted her pending request to President Joe Biden to direct the Federal Emergency Management Administration to pay for 100% of costs related to a broad range of recovery efforts.

First, there was the Animas River disaster. Then, there have been over two years of covid inanity. Now, this.

Frankly, I am not that impressed by the ability of bureaucratic “experts” to resolve problems on a global or regional scale.


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Who will lose their jobs over this? Or be prosecuted for arson? Or feel any other consequence at all?

Buehler …

    Dathurtz in reply to irv. | May 30, 2022 at 8:44 pm

    The homeless people will feel the consequences, but nobody that is actually at fault.

At least the Forest Service is *trying* to conduct planned burns now. They had been holding so much back that the ground litter built up until… well, what we have now.

    r2468 in reply to georgfelis. | May 30, 2022 at 7:04 pm

    The burn was a little larger than expected. /sarc.

    JohnC in reply to georgfelis. | May 31, 2022 at 6:04 am

    Absolutely. Controlled burns, fire breaks, and clearing ground litter are part of a well managed forestry system. If California did them there wouldn’t be so many fires every year.

    However, it would seem these controlled burns were not so “well managed.”

But government workers are “experts”! Or so I’ve been told the past two years. Seriously though, anytime I hear someone argue that “these are experts,” it makes me cringe. They believe that just because someone has a degree or has some experience they’ve never made a mistake. Just look at how many medical malpractice lawsuits there are. All these doctors, who were smart enough to get through undergrad, get good scores on the MCAT, go through several years of education and training, still make mistakes, negligent mistakes, and sometimes intentional mistakes.

    Dathurtz in reply to Guardian79. | May 30, 2022 at 8:47 pm

    Forest Service people used to be genuine experts. They suffered a massive brain drain during Clinton when experienced people were encouraged to retire so they could be replaced with diversity hires. The process was repeated, but on steroids, under Obama.

    There probably are some competent people, but they aren’t gonna be high enough up the food chain to make any real decisions.

      puhiawa in reply to Dathurtz. | May 30, 2022 at 10:15 pm

      There are actual Federal agencies under Obama that checked the voting record of every single applicant and did not hire a single person who voted for a republican. The order came directly from the White House.

        Dathurtz in reply to puhiawa. | May 30, 2022 at 10:44 pm

        All kinds of shady stuff went down under Obama.

          MisterSadFaceMcGee in reply to Dathurtz. | May 30, 2022 at 11:16 pm

          Do you have a source for this? Not that I wouldn’t put this past the Obama administration, how are they able to check someone’s voting records? Ballots are secret. This doesn’t pass the smell test.

          NavyMustang in reply to Dathurtz. | May 30, 2022 at 11:28 pm

          In reply to MisterSadFaceMcGee, i just looked up my voter reg using info all available on any job application i would submit to the feds (by the way, i was a fed). Gave me address, etc. including party affiliation.

          Never heard of Obama’s minions looking for that, though wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

          malclave in reply to Dathurtz. | May 31, 2022 at 1:55 am

          Party registration and voting in primaries come to mind as ways to determine affiliation.

          Dathurtz in reply to Dathurtz. | May 31, 2022 at 7:12 am

          Mr. SadFace McGehee,

          That isn’t my particular claim, though I did hear it at the time from some GS-12s.

          The shady stuff I know about mostly related to promotions/semi-forced retirements, and the shenanigans dealing with the the stimulus funds. Oh, and how the GM bankruptcy thing played out.

        Milhouse in reply to puhiawa. | May 31, 2022 at 3:18 am

        There is no way for them to know whether someone ever voted for a Republican. All they can know is party registration and which primary people voted in. That doesn’t tell you anything about how the person voted in November. In many places one party so dominates that that party’s primary is the real election, and the November election is just a ritual of purely symbolic importance, so regardless of how you vote in November, if you want a meaningful vote you have to register with and vote in the dominant party’s primary.

          Danny in reply to Milhouse. | May 31, 2022 at 1:23 pm

          For an overwhelming majority of people yes they will be voting for their parties nominee and they know if you voted.

          Sorry but list the Democrat presidential candidates you would have liked to vote for in 2020, I can bet you have a total of zero.

          There are a couple of “Republicans” like David French who are Democrats who vote Democrat but use the title “Republican” for themselves as a way of doing the normal “Oh I am a Republican back when they used to be humans but todays Republicans are Nazis” routine but those are few in number.

      diver64 in reply to Dathurtz. | May 31, 2022 at 5:09 am

      I ran into a number of these affirmative action hires on several national forests in the 90’s. One young african american lady was on her 5th forest. She kept getting transferred because she couldn’t do anything but more to the point, refused to learn. I had to teach her how to read a topo map. However, they couldn’t fire her.

They waited too long to burn it.

Sounds like they are covering for white supremacy. lol.
/obvious sarcasm

We are dealing with a competency issue with every single Federal agency now. They hire based on political views, global warming, gay quotient, inner-city blackness and the inability to speak English. Except in the FBI/Justice Departments. They hire on how good you look on paper, but how crooked you are at white collar crime. The NIH/CDC hire based on your acceptance that Big Pharma pays your bribes.

Perhaps the feds should have had instructions from the original stewards of our nation’s forests. The native Americans were performing controlled burns to manage forests for centuries before the arrival of the first European settlers.

Maybe the feds should have had instructions from the original stewards of our nation’s forests. The Native Americans were performing controlled burns to manage forests for centuries before the arrival of the first European settlers.

I think we need to really get cracking on Climate Change efforts now, with all this extra CO2 produced. Let’s speed up that “incredible transition” in gas prices to higher levels. /s

henrybowman | May 30, 2022 at 11:58 pm

Joe’s Forest Service / EPA cultural exchange program isn’t working out.

JamesInTahoe | May 31, 2022 at 2:40 am

This is nothing new. The USFS has done this repeatedly. In recent testimony they proudly stated that 98.4% of their prescribed burns remain within the anticipated area. Sounds great until you realize they do 4500 or so burns per year. So you get 70+ prescribed burns each year that go badly. Imagine an airline bragging that 98.4% of their flights didn’t crash.

Aside from prescribed burns gone wrong, they also have taken to letting natural fires burn. For them, the benefit is that they don’t have to go through the regulatory work to get the burn approved. They did this near us this summer, resulting in a nearly 80,000 acre fire that destroyed multiple homes. Then, a month later they slow played the response to another fire, resulting in 200,000+ acres and more than 1,000 homes burning.

Even though they are being told to stop their let it burn policy, the USFS has essentially said, well, okay, but we have a resource shortage, so we may not have the resources to respond. Of course, once it blows up they are able to find thousands of fire fighters to respond.

Prescribed burns can be tricky but weather, especially wind, is one of the main things taken into account before a fire is set. This is complete incompetence on the part of everyone involved from the Forest Mgr that approved the burn to the crew that failed to completely put out the fire.

    Sanddog in reply to diver64. | May 31, 2022 at 2:59 pm

    The Calf Canyon burn was a pile burn and the USFS assumed the snow would prevent it from spreading. They’ve known for years that a major fire in the Gallinas watershed would be extremely destructive since it provides water for Las Vegas so they’ve been trying to mitigate the risk. The burn wasn’t a bad idea, it was the assumption it would extinguish naturally that was the major screw up.

I’m pretty sure the mistake, here, was admitting responsibility for the starter fires. After all, in ALL the BIG THINGS, government is super-competent. Sort of like government, not ours fortunately, was super-competent at Chernobyl.