New Mexico: Little Bear fire makes a strong push to the east

Satellite map of Little Bear fire 7:01 pm MDT June 9, 2012

The Little Bear fire on the Lincoln National Forest in southeast New Mexico, the home of Smokey Bear, attracted attention today by making a big push to the east and putting up a huge amount of smoke.

Satellite map of Little Bear fire 7:01 pm MDT June 9, 2012
Satellite photo of Little Bear fire, 7:01 pm MDT June 9, 2012

The Little Bear fire started from a lightning strike on June 4 and is listed at 10,000 acres, but I’m guessing it increased to about 15,000 on Saturday.

More information about the Little Bear fire.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

10 thoughts on “New Mexico: Little Bear fire makes a strong push to the east”

  1. The news out of Albuquerque noted this afternoon that this fire was spreading at about 1,000 acres per hour with spotting up to two miles ahead of the fire. It is much more than 15,000 acres, I am guessing from the modis overlay in google earth it will be listed somewhere between 25 and 30,000 acres in the Sunday briefing.

  2. Thanks for publishing the link to the map. We evacuated and are searching for any/all info. We live in the Loma Grande area and according to this map our home is still standing. Will hold out some hope that it remains true.

  3. US Forestry should put more money into thining and forest management people would not loose their houses and we would not loose so much forest, Cost and loss would be millions less a year someone needs to fix this.

    1. Sure would be nice if they could. Budgets and targets are set by congress not the USDA Forest Service. And then they have all the environmental laws and groups to satisfy. It’s almost impossible today to do this. Fire is a critical part of the ecosystem. It’s not all about the USDA FS doing this, property owners can also do a lot to mitigate fire lose. The Forest Service cannot do anything any more that is correct management. It’s all about politics! I just retired from the USDA Forest Service because of this issue!

  4. While I’m devastated at the loss of property and forest, these fires have been a staple of heavily wooded areas since time began. Naturally started fires (such as this one by lightning) serve a purpose. They do, in the long haul, rejuvenate the forest, refresh the soil, and provide more resilient vegetation. Part of living in a heavily wooded area is the risk of wildfires. There are a number of prairies that are “fire-dependent”: that is, their long term survival is conditioned upon the prairie burning.

  5. I have a different take on James’ comment:

    “Residents” should put more money into thinning and forest management. People would not lose their houses and we would not lose so much forest. Cost and loss would be millions less a year. Someone needs to fix this.

  6. I read both Mark, James’ and the Forestry techs comments above. I am intimately familiar with the area around the Little Bear Fire. As a matter of fact, the fire burned up to 300 yards from my parents summer house along airport road. The forest service, village of Ruidoso and Lincoln county have been very active of requiring home owners to thin and keep their land cleaned of debris. Homeowners are REQUIRED to clean their land of sticks and pin needles on a frequent basis and the county has free pick up at designated sites for collecting this material. So I would like to inform the person above named Forestry tech that these measures have been taken. I actually think this area I one of the most advanced areas in the Unites States when it comes to these stringent requirements. i am sure that person has not visited this area and seen the thinning along both sides of Hwy 48 from Ruidoso to Angus and beyond. I have and I was impressed last time I was there. I live in California and worked as a fuels technician monitoring fire breaks in my area of northern California.
    The fire stopped along the lines of Sierra Vista subdivision and I believe that the thinning and fire breaks probably helped.
    As for the other areas, the firestorm was so intense coming down the mountain ridge that the crown fire overcame any thinning and fire protection measures (ie. enchanted forest and Angus areas).
    What needs to happen is for homeowners to stop using wood siding and ordinances requiring homeowners to install sprinkler protection systems in these hazard areas to ensure the best possible protection measures. Those measures will help when firefighters can’t enter such dangerous areas and this is exactly what happened.
    I lived in Ruidoso during the 1970’s to the early 1990’s and the drought since then has been exceptional. Yes, fires are good for the overall forest health but this is the worst time of the year for a fire to occur. That wilderness has not seen any fires for a very long time, no prescribed fires and was extremely loaded with brush, ladder fuels and dead and down from the extended drought.
    The firestorm on june 8 and 9th was some of the worst I have seen and several pictures show flames that I believe are much higher than 150 feet in length as reported. There was one particular picture of the fire running up a ridge near Monjeau peak lookout. I know the size of the trees and I believe the flame lengths in that flare up were possibly higher than 500 feet. See this link to a picture of the crown fire run. Those trees are at least 50 feet tall for reference. When a fire is this intense nothing can be done until is calms down or burns itself out.

    It really wasn’t the right time for a fire that could help the forest health when all things are considered.

    1. Paul,

      Actually, I have been there (Ruidoso) several times, and served on peer review of numerous fuels treatment areas in the West. While many participate, many others do not.

      My statement was meant only to offer that it is not ONLY the Forest Service’s responsibility, but also the responsibility of landowners living in the wildland to properly prepare their homes.

      The Forest Service is spending over 1/4 to 1/3 Billion dollars (with a B) PER YEAR (since 2003) on hazardous fuels treatments. The Forest Service is mandated with the funding to expend 75% in the wildland-urban interface.

      Compare and contrast that with what just one year of that funding level would do to “shore up” the federal airtanker fleet.


  7. I am the person who took those pictures of the flames. I watched them Friday night completely devour trees and wildland. I grew up in the sacramento mountains and am deeply saddened by the fire because it devastated such natural beauty. I sympathize with those that have lost their homes but also know that living in a forested area creates risk. Homes will be rebuilt next year, the forest won’t. Why isn’t anyone concerned with the overall picture that climate change is causing drastic changes here in the southwest as well as elsewhere? I heard Governor Martinez talk about logging the forest and I have to say the forests didn’t have this issue (extreme fires) before we logged it. The issue lies in climate change and past fire suppression. I do wonder however why the fire was not suppressed with water during its initial containment when such dry conditions are in place. Why not come back to the area and prescribe burn after the summer rains?

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