Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon Fires on track to become the largest in NM — over 203,000 acres burned

Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon Fires on track to become the largest in NM — over 203,000 acres burned
Photo by MikeFlores

It looks like New Mexico largest fire in recorded history have a serious contender. In 2012 Whitewater-Baldy Fire burned over 300,000 acres. Just a week ago Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon Fires were at 160,000 acres, and continued to grow thanks to strong winds and dry weather conditions.

Today's report by Santa Fe National Forest on Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon Fires states, that since yesterday total affected area increased by 14,000 acres and now stands at 203,920 acres. Fuels remain atypically dry due to ongoing severe drought exasperated by strong winds and high temperatures. The fire has been growing primarily through Ponderosa pine with a significant amount of dead and downed fuels in the understory.

Primary fire activity occurred on the northern and southwest flanks. In the southwestern portion, fire continued actively flanking south and east in Santillanes Creek and Tecolote Creek as strong westerly winds pushed fire down-valley to the east. Frequent torching and short-range spotting was observed throughout the night and day.

On the northern flank, the fire spotted east across Hwy 518 south of Holman yesterday evening, and proceeded to run east across the Rincon Mountains to the 434 Road with up to 2-mile spotting this afternoon. Fire continues to flank north and is well established in Vigil Canyon west of Holman. Fire is continuing to work it's way west up to the crest of the Santa Fe range, gaining approximately 1/2 mile per day working upslope against the dominant westerly winds.

Over the next 24 hours Red flag conditions with strong sustained winds and very strong gusts (over 50 mph) will combine with the dry fuels, and single-digit humidity to allow for extreme fire behavior throughout the day and night.

At such rate of spread even 1,759 personnel clearly not enough due to unfavorable conditions. Though containment evaluated at 43%, by the end of May Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon Fires could be the largest in New Mexico, just 10 years since the last record serving as a grim reminder of the dangers of climate change.