Two prescribed fires in New Mexico escape and become wildfires

In the vicinity of Roswell and Las Vegas

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Updated 4:52 p.m. MDT April 10, 2022

Hermits Peak Fire, April 10, 2022
Hermits Peak Fire, the morning of April 10, 2022. USFS photo.

Information released from the Incident Management Team for the Hermits Peak Fire at approximately 1:30 p.m. MDT on Sunday, stated that voluntary evacuations are in effect for three communities:

In coordination with the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office, voluntary evacuations for the communities of San Ignacio, Las Dispensas and Pendaries have been put in place. Forecasted winds exceeding 60 mph have been predicted for today. Increasing winds each day through next week can cause holding concerns, drier weather is forecasted into next week and a RED FLAG WARNING is in effect for the fire area today until 8 pm.

The Incident Management Teams will continue using full suppression strategy utilizing hand crews and assessing the best strategy to engage the fire during the high wind period. The Hermits Peak Fire is in steep, rugged, terrain with limited access by vehicle. Firefighters are working to keep the fire out of Beaver Creek and out of the Gallinas Municipal Watershed.

Hermits Peak Fire map
Unofficial map of the Hermits Peak Fire area showing the communities of San Ignacio, Las Dispensas and Pendaries.

Early Sunday morning the fire was about 12 miles northwest of Las Vegas, New Mexico and according to the US Forest Service had burned 540 acres.

To see all articles about the Hermits Peak Fire on Wildfire Today, including the most recent, click HERE.

A Type 2 Incident Management Team, Southwest Team 4 with Incident Commander Aaron Hulburd, will assume command on Monday, April 11.

On Sunday resources assigned to the fire included 4 hotshot crews, 1 Type 2 IA crew, 8 fire engines, 1 Type 1 helicopter, 1 Type 2 helicopter, 1 Type 3 helicopter, 1 Rapid Extraction Module, and 1 Tactical Water Tender, for a total of 163 personnel.

Updated 12:05 p.m. MDT April 10, 2022

Map Hermits Peak Fire at 8:30 a.m. MDT April 10, 2022
Map showing the location of the Hermits Peak Fire at 8:30 a.m. MDT April 10, 2022.

Hermits Peak Fire

Most of the Hermits Peak Fire in the Santa Fe National Forest 12 miles northwest of Las Vegas, New Mexico is spreading in the Pecos Wilderness. While the transition is occurring from the Type 3 Incident Management Team to the incoming Type 2 Team very little current information is available. An unofficial estimate of the size after a mapping flight early Sunday morning puts it at more than 500 acres.

The weather will challenge firefighters for the next several days, with looming Red Flag Warnings Sunday and Monday and a Fire Weather Watch on Tuesday. The spot weather forecast for Sunday is for 10 to 14 percent relative humidity, an unstable atmosphere, the possibility of erratic, downburst winds, and general 22 to 30 mph winds gusting in the afternoon out of the west to 60 mph along ridges. Strong winds and low humidities will continue Sunday night and Monday. A longer range forecast predicts strong winds and low humidities persisting into Saturday, April 15.

The Incident Management Team said the fire could potentially spread in all directions on Sunday due to the predicted wind and topography.

The Hermits Peak Fire is a result of the Las Dispensas prescribed fire spreading out of control at 4:30 p.m. on April 6.

Overflow Fire

Another escaped prescribed fire, the Overflow Fire 10 miles southeast of Roswell, New Mexico, is burning in lighter fuels than the Hermits Peak Fire. Sunday morning it is still listed at 1,900 acres as the firefighters move into the mopup phase. Resources for the fire Sunday include five engines, two hotshot crews, and one bulldozer. Air support resources remain on standby.

Map Overflow Fire, April 9, 2022
Map of the Overflow Fire, April 9, 2022. BLM.

A Red Flag Warning is in effect Sunday in Southeast New Mexico due to expected strong winds and low relative humidity. Monday’s forecast predicts similar conditions, with the Red Flag Warning remaining in place.


12:04 MDT April 9, 2022

Map two escaped prescribed fires New Mexico
Map showing location of two escaped prescribed fires in New Mexico (at the red arrows).

Two prescribed fire projects in New Mexico have escaped and were declared as wildfires.

Hermits Peak

The Hermits Peak Fire on the Santa Fe National Forest is 29 miles east of Santa Fe and 12 miles northwest of Las Vegas, New Mexico. It escaped from the Las Dispensas prescribed fire at 4:30 p.m. on April 6 after the project was ignited late that morning. On Friday the U.S. Forest Service said it had burned approximately 350 acres after having been declared a wildfire. It is burning in mixed conifer in steep, rugged terrain. A Type 3 Incident Management Team assumed command on April 8 with the objective of full suppression. A Type 2 IMT, Southwest Team 4 with Incident Commander Aaron Hulburd, has been ordered and will inbrief at 9 a.m. Sunday.

It is moving toward the Pecos Wilderness. As of April 8 there were no direct threats to private property.

Hermits Peak Fire
Hermits Peak Fire, April 8, 2022. USFS photo.
Map Hermits Peak Fire New Mexico
Map showing the location of the Hermits Peak Fire at 10 p.m. MDT April 8, 2022.

In a statement released on April 6, the U.S. Forest Service said, “Although forecasted weather conditions were within parameters for the prescribed burn, unexpected erratic winds in the late afternoon caused multiple spot fires that spread outside the project boundary.”

Overflow Fire

The Overflow Fire has burned approximately 1,900 acres of salt cedar and grass 10 miles southeast of Roswell, New Mexico. The Bureau of Land Management was conducting a prescribed fire along the Pecos River corridor in Chaves County on April 7 when, the agency said, “an unexpected fire whirl carried fire across the control lines.” It was declared a wildfire at 1:25 p.m. April 7 and the strategy is full suppression. It has spread onto Federal, State and private lands.

Map Overflow Fire New Mexico
Map showing heat detected on the Overflow Fire by satellites as late at 2:55 p.m. MDT April 8, 2022.

As of April 8 resources on the incident included six engines, two hotshot crews, and overhead from Chaves County, Carlsbad Fire Department, Ruidoso Fire Department, New Mexico Forestry, U.S. Forest Service, and U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


Early in the morning on April 6 The National Weather Service said there would be strong winds across Central and Western New Mexico that day. They issued a wind advisory for “northwest and central portions of the area” in effect from 2 to 7 p.m.

The spot weather forecast for the Las Dispensas prescribed fire which became the Hermits Peak wildfire was issued at 8:54 a.m. MDT April 6, a few hours before it was ignited. It predicted clear skies, 9 to 13 percent relative humidity, and winds at 20 feet to be out of the west at 10 to 15 mph with gusts to 25 mph possible.

A spot weather forecast for the Overflow prescribed fire issued the previous evening predicted for the next day clear skies, 7 percent relative humidity, and “north winds 5 to 6 mph shifting to the south 7 to 13 mph late in the morning.”

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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.

63 thoughts on “Two prescribed fires in New Mexico escape and become wildfires”

  1. I don’t get it. Here in Albuquerque, I get constant warnings from the city that we are in the middle of the “windy season” and should be careful about dust. Why would professionals set a prescribed fire at this time of year? Anyone who lives in New Mexico knows better than to trust a weather report!

  2. I would think that dry seasons with no reports of precipitation, high winds, etc and torching off a RX burn just to meet some management objectives really need to be reevaluated USFS wide

    Pretty senseless…might want to save that RX burn time and turn it into JIT training and not tie up resources cuz one RX burn went South

    But hey some of IGNS from the 1980s and 1990s probably don’t know crap in current “resource management” and some of us did pay attention to our S290/390 instructors about those better days for burning

  3. Seems like you must know a lot about this one #Torchy – can you tell me how they were out of prescription and just lit it “to meet some management objectives”. What are the objectives for that area?

  4. “If man has learned anything from his experiences…it is that he has learned nothing from his experiences.”

  5. Burning in Eastern New Mexico at 7 pct RH while the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles are experiencing major fires with extreme behavior?

    Of course these were “good fires” as long as they were prescribed. Does the escape make them a “bad fire” now?


    The cold front generating the wind which “blew up” the fire in Florida was easy to track across the country for days in advance. Red flag warnings were imminent the day the burn was started and were issued the next day.

    This spring, a prescribed burn was started near Jewell Cave in South Dakota the day before a Red Flag Warning were issued. The wind event that triggered the Red Flag Warning had been forecast for days. And despite repeated media warnings about high fire danger in the area this spring “officials” went ahead with the burn. Fortunately, that fire did not “escape.”

    In general, I support prescribed burns, but common sense must prevail, and there are some managers who cannot seem to apply it. Perhaps it is time for some of these “decision makers” to be charged with reckless endangerment and arson and be held accountable for their arrogant disregard of public safety.

    You can sneer at “armchair quarterbacks” all you like. It helps to identify the irresponsible ones!

  7. The 10-15 mph wind forecast sounded good but gusts to 25 is definitely problematic….I don’t recall seeing that forecast that often but has been several years. I think that forecast should call for detailed discussion with NWS..Maybe that did occur. My concern with stated 25 mph gusts is that NWS is sorta saying yeah it could be more windy than your average 10-15 day. Like if it said 12-18, with occasional gusts to 25, then who would ever say it’s a go? Safe bet, forecasted winds gusts to 25, let’s not do it, even if 10-15 is otherwise forecasted. On the other one, I assume ignition was delayed till after the 180° wind shift and winds just became stronger than spot forecast. Best verify that previous evening spot forecast on morning of the burn. Maybe they did…

  8. It’s got to be tough being a decision maker. Escapes always make news and present opportunities for criticism, particularly in the negative. Realistically what percentage of prescribed burns escape? It is very low but still, one escape is one too many and a black mark on whoever and whatever organization is “responsible”. Here’s a paper (one of many) that I found educational. “Organizational Learning from Prescribed Fire Escapes: a Review of Developments Over the Last 10 Years in the USA and Australia”. [] LR

  9. Seven percent humidity, wind advisories, and NWS WX reports a couple of days in advance would be my go to. Maybe you current day folks can tell me what the objectives were in that kind of weather….hell in my area, we have people the general public that can’t pay attention to burn bans in many cases.

    Sort of feel bad that a few folks here can’t take others opinions without callin it Mon AM quarterbacking

    I know RX burn come w alot of responsibilities but with weather conditions in Intermountain West and Desert SW you can’t tell me that there could be a small common sense moratorium when everyone else in GP is reminded daily about “watching one fire

  10. Pictures of the areas being control-burned would be helpful.

    A lot of the aerial views lead one to believe that it’s mostly desert, with nothing to burn.

    Without a picture, how about an estimate of the fuel load per acre ?

  11. EXACTLY! I check before going for a bike ride. Anyone remember the Los Alamos fire? Same start.

  12. Old saying in Forestry: any one with a tree in their backyard and a dollar in their pocket thinks that they can manage a commercial forest.

  13. Emmett, that’s not what people are saying. I don’t even have a tree in my backyard. I do have a BS in Meteorology and a MS in Environmental Management and 27 years of experience and I use to work in R3 as an ARA and an AQS. And this didn’t happen when I was there!!! What I want to know is who was the ARA/AQS? Who ran the models? What models were used? Did anyone check the spot forecast? Who made the final decision?

  14. Actually, arrogance within the land management profession has long undermined prescribed fire and other programs. The idea that the public should not be questioning decisions is a perfect example of arrogance.

    How is it “arm chair” quarterbacking to point out that the BLM RX burn that started at 1135 a.m. reportedly relied upon a spot weather forecast from the previous evening? Or why would anyone start a burn at time when a 180 degree wind shift was predicted?

    “A spot weather forecast for the Overflow prescribed fire issued the previous evening predicted for the next day clear skies, 7 percent relative humidity, and ‘north winds 5 to 6 mph shifting to the south 7 to 13 mph late in the morning.’”

  15. When it comes to public lands that are not primarily commercial forests, that is one old, arrogant saying needing retirement.

    You do realize the RX fire near Las Vegas was not in a “commercial forest?” It was in salt cedar and grass. There are plenty of people in that area who do not have a tree in their backyard but still own property and pay the taxes that funded that RX burn.

    Nothing undermines public trust in prescribed burning than an escaped prescribed burn, especially if it damages property. We aren’t talking about a little slopover, this fire escaped within two hours of ignition and their excuse was a fire whirl “was not expected.” That calls into question both judgement and experience and the need for a thorough lessons learned.

  16. The article reported they relied on a spot forecast from the evening, not one from the morning of the burn. A wind shift was predicted around the time of the start (1135 am according to inciweb report). Considering how dry that country is (it is the east end of a geographic region with multiple large fires ongoing and throughout the month of March), wouldn’t that suggest the possibility of a fire whirl to anyone with any meteorological knowledge?

    According to the INCIWEB reports, the fire has damaged power lines and private property. Yet, we have people like Emmet and Riva who reflexively take the position that these actions are beyond questioning when these actions have caused harm.

  17. Yep folks forget infrastructure that needs to get replaced either FEMA and the associated costs of an FMAG

    One can justify their programs BUT one might wants to consider pvt property and infrastructure costs that becomes an issue after an- RX gone wildland

  18. Thanks for the link to the Florida fire. Somehow that one escaped my notice in 2018.
    I am working on a letter to the SC Forestry Commission regarding escaped RX fires after learning that there is no separate category for them once they are declared a wildfire. They are simply thrown into the “debris burn” category, lumping an RX burn approved at higher levels with a backyard burn requiring a notification.

  19. Developing rx experience is going to be the greatest fuel mitigation hurtle in the west. My armchair quarterback assessment is to start tying up suppression resources and have them on rx burns. It’s not an escape if you beat the fire into submission with on-site resources. I did an escape fire review nearly a decade ago and our assessment was the burn wasn’t big enough to begin with. Learn from this, grow from this, and get back at it!

  20. Don, so that would suggest that they did not follow protocol. They need to check the spot forest the morning of the burn, then run a screening tool, such as, ARL HYSPLIT, and then run PC HYSPLIT if they failed the screening step. You don’t have to use HYSPLIT. You can use another screening tool or another model, but I like to use ARL HYSLPIT, because it’s fast. It overestimates the emissions, but it take about 47 secs to run. PC HYSLPIT can take up to 2 hrs. I’d still like to know who was there ARA/AQS and who signed off on this burn. The after action report should be really interesting. As for your comment on a fire whirl…maybe, but it’s more likely due to the front that moved in. As for people who accuse me of arm-chair quarterbacking…I don’t really care what they say, cause I think it’s better to discuss these kinda things instead of letting the FS off the hook for their incompetence.

  21. I’m reading a lot about the weather…maybe you guys have forgotten the wildland fire triangle. Fuels and topography. I’m guessing that you haven’t had the experience of needing a 15-20 mph wind to get fire across a scabby unit. Maybe you are unfamiliar with the effect of a ridgeline shielding the wind off of the line you are lighting off. Maybe you don’t understand how fuels and topography drive fire behavior and decision making. All of these comments present that fact pretty well. Anyone who has done this job for any amount of time knows that sometimes unexpected things happen. Who knows…maybe a flaming rat ran across a bulletproof hardtop road as the line.Without reading an incident review of these escapes it is pretty silly to start throwing accusations at the organizations that lit them. If you truly believe that these organizations are lighting burns without checking and double checking and referencing other experienced practitioners for advice you are living in your own little fantasy land. I am guessing that 99% of the folks involved will say with the knowledge they had at the time they would do the same thing. And guess what! Sometimes things just don’t go as expected.

  22. Well, since I was called out by name, I’ll reluctantly respond.

    None of you were there or involved in the planning or execution of the burns. None of you knows the rx parameters or the objectives of the burns.

    You all speculating and judging here is not an official review. My stance on armchair quarterbacking does not mean these escapes shouldn’t be reviewed. That will, and should, come. I’ll venture to say that most of you criticizing have never been involved in the implementation of a burn that escaped. It sucks. I feel for these folks, many my friends, who are taking on the risk and doing the hard work of using fire on the land. I can tell you no one feels worse about it than they do.

    So how about just a little compassion for our sisters and brothers in NM instead of judgement and even Carl’s call for “these ‘decision makers’ to be charged with reckless endangerment and arson and be held accountable for their arrogant disregard of public safety.” That was how we dealt with escapes in the bad old days, and I, frankly, do not want to go back to that.

  23. You can have compassion for people and still hold them accountable. I have compassion for the people who walked away from the burn that started the Oakland Hills Firestorm. But I don’t think anyone should ever let them run a burn again.

  24. Interesting to read the criticism of those doing Rx fire. The unfortunate double standard is that Rx fire has to go perfectly to avoid reproach, but fire suppression can be royally bungled and still be praised. Those engaged in proactive fire take on huge responsibility and great personal and professional risk to do right by the land. If only we just continued the century long tradition of emergency fire response, irrespective of short- and long-term damage to our wildlands, we’d all be heroes all the time. Wonderful.

  25. I still don’t get it. Our local tv station, KOAT, posted an explanation of why prescribed fires are a good thing, as if that has anything to do with this particular situation. I support prescribed fire as a practice. I do not support setting them in New Mexico during the driest windy season we have ever had. Are there really professionals on this forum who believe that the conditions under which they are set don’t matter? Or that they are always set responsibly? Might the general public have some sense that this attitude exists, and therefore have good reason to oppose prescribed fire, and the “experts” who set them?

  26. The Tunnel Fire was a re-ignited grass fire. Maybe more gridding was needed. It was a not related in anyway to a prescribed fire.

    I wasn’t there but remember the ash falling on my childhood home.

  27. Seeing these comments makes me not want to burn. Im a type 2 burn boss snd responsible for putting fire on the landscape within my district and my community. I know burning is right for the land and the land needs it. Making decisions to burn is not easy… even with a great 7 day forecast. I don’t get paid enough to take on the responsibility. All these negative comments makes me not want to even try. Weather is so difficult to forecast. You can go into a burn window and the forecast can change quickly. In fact today 6-12 inches of snow is predicted where I live. Yesterday was a totally different forecast. Until you have been in a burn bosses boots, you should not comment on how to do things. Please… go be a burn boss and lets judge your decisions. Its easy to just not burn. We are making the best decisions we can and trying so hard to do whats right for the land. Thank you Riva for standing up for burn bosses. I say good job for trying. The landscape is going to burn. I guess wildfire is the better option. Im a hero when Im involved with fire suppression but when Im trying to put needed fire on the land I’m scrutinize heavily. Tired of it all.

  28. Excuse me, it’s been a long time since I worked on the Task Force, and my memory is going. But the connection I feel is emotional: it could have been prevented by the “experts” who walked away from it. Just as the two current New Mexico wildfires could have been prevented by the “experts” who set them. I went through hell back then, and knew people who died. And we have had too many recent stories on this forum about people dying fighting fires. I don’t believe either set of experts thought enough about consequences.

  29. I used to could do that too. I maintained and kept my sanity for 30 years of FS, BLM, NPS. All the positive comments I got while being a hotshot and later to fire and aviation management were great. I was one of those burn bosses that had to rely on people, other agencies, forecasts, contingency resources. It wasn’t easy. I was a GS 6 burn boss back then. The FMOs just signed a paper to let me burn. Yes, I was a burn boss for all these agencies and they are all the same. In todays world everybody wants instant results. Wait and see in 10 years, those places will look great. I am sure the GS 3 up to the GS7 are grateful to get overtime and hazard pay for work that they were going to do anyways. It was a good paycheck for starters back then. It is clearly visible to me that the forests are going to burn anyways. The forest now shuts down the roads for 5 months a year, what do they do, waste annual leave, hold meetings, oh yeah they call it planning. 2 types of starts anyways,

  30. Fuels Bro
    It sure is exhausting. I lost so much sleep worrying about pulling off rx burns, and I faced the consequences when things didn’t go as planned. No one gets up in the morning intending to lose a burn. I hope you keep at it, and I completely understand if you don’t. But Burn Bosses like you are exactly who we need out there. The haters here are in the vocal minority, and they should be ashamed of themselves. I hung up my RXB2 when I retired, but I so value and admire all of you out there still putting in the hard work using this very valuable tool.

  31. retired and retired and retired replies, oh well who would take advice from people who have done that and really knew fire behavior and studied up to the 500 courses. I guess the fire folks now a days think it just was old dust. But burn bosses now a days really need to be paying attention because there are a lot of people watching now. I know that younger folks think they are invincible . I was there. Burn bosses be aware of the resources you have and what they can do.

  32. Thanks for all those who came before us and left our generation a delightful fuels complex and climate change. Your comments are especially appreciated when we try to realign the environment to the current conditions with prescribed fire. There were so many amazing wet and cool decades where prescribed fire would have been so easy….

    Can we hold judgement on the results until all the chips fall? Yes, these are now declared wildfires but are they all bad? The label can be the result of a lot of factors independent from connotation. We may be receiving triple the benefit than planned. It’s hard to say with this amount of info at this point.

  33. Not saying this was a proximate cause but we can expect to lose a lot more of these as the pressure from Line to burn increases . Line officers get feather in their caps (and often large cash awards) for burning so they lean on the Dist folks hard to “get acres” . They don’t seem to understand it’s us lowly RXB2’s that take on all of the exposure and little of the rewards.

    In the world of Rx fire JFK had applicable words:
    “Success has a thousand fathers but failure is an orphan.”

  34. Fuels Bro,

    “I don’t get paid enough to take on the responsibility. All these negative comments makes me not want to even try. ”

    Precisely!!! I am an RXB2 and these are exactly my sentiments! The SECOND I can jettison RXB2 from my Red Card, it’s gone!!!!!!

    “Success has a thousand fathers but failure is an orphan”. -JFK.

  35. The other thing that people need to know is that when it’s a prescribed burn you have to count the emissions, but when it turns into a wildfire, the Exception Event Rule kicks in, so emissions are not counted. (Rx burns usually are low intense burns, less emissions, while wildfires are high intense burns, more emissions). So, a wildfire is worse for climate change (more emissions), but better for the politicans if it turns into a wildfire. It’s also better for the FS/NPS/BLM because they get more money. Wildfires are also better for FS/NPS/FS because it is news…feeds those huge egos. Noone get call a hero on a Rx burn.

  36. Come on LR, don’t act incredulous. I am the spouse of a RF and my significant other has received LARGE cash awards for exceeding targets…more than once.

    It’s almost mythical among us rank and file but the last award paid off our vehicle. Two subordinate Forest Supts also received tidy sums at the end of the FY. You can guffaw all you would like but I see (and indirectly benefit from) these awards. My spouse was reminded to “be humble” about them so as to not cause animosity. Yes, the stories are true.

  37. You are so correct. It is beyond me why these ‘professionals’ or officials would ok a prescribed fire. Are arsonists in charge?

  38. When you see that we’ve had so little precip this year, and that we are seeing ‘red flag’ warnings on weather channels then why not arm-chair quarterback? Anyone living in this dry climate knows better than to start any type of fire. My parents taught me not to play with matches. Forest management needs to be ‘re-imagined’ in New Mexico.

  39. Fuels Bro, Riva Duncan –
    Thank you for the reality check,
    Thank you for Your opinions, your current and past work experience in Wildland Fire and especially prescribed fire/fuels management. I think they are spot on.
    I felt my gut tighten up as many memories of conducting and being ultimately responsible for the development of meaningful burn plans/rx prescriptions and conducting safe, goal accomplishing operational aspects of prescribed fires in areas around the west over my career.
    I don’t feel these “Twitter type” discussions on a format like this are very helpful, other than to offer some support for a particular opinion.
    The real product of value is a well conducted escaped fire review with attached recommendations for change if necessary. Hopefully in the spirit of the (old?) High Reliability Organizing principles that went around a decade or more ago.
    I’m guessing someone is already greasing the wheels for that to occur. Guess we’ll see.
    Several folks have alluded to the “hero in suppression no matter what” vs “scapegoat if it goes wrong” in RX Fire.
    I felt that way regularly.
    Only those who regularly conduct RX Fire as the Burn Boss can truly understand all the variables that must be accounted for in the process of successfully conducting prescribed burns across the landscape.
    Be strong. Be the best st what you do.
    Do it with pride and integrity.
    FWIW people like me see what you do, and we appreciate it.
    Ken Kerr (retired 1979-2014)

  40. With all the back n forth about being a RXB2 and others….I can’t remember if it was voluntary or assigned depending upon the Agency

    I learned EARLY in 1992. AD before the PTB era with BLM how squirrely even the “most perfect day” and it started off pretty nice and then about 30 minutes later winds switches in the days before SPOT forecast, HROs, and all the new gobbledegook tech that most often times doesn’t talk together, the fire is leaning form 30 foot over and blisterin paint off a two wheel drive GMC Dually Type6 and 4 of were diving for the dirt

    Yeah I got a liitle experience in burn plans and torch handlin…not enough to take a true interest in RX burning because I was working on my forestry degree, helping run a UH1 engine and MX shop transferring from Reserves to Guard and working on my Commercial flying license and working on a USFWS refuge after I departed BLM

    But I did pay attention to S290/390 and the meteorology we pilots need to know to keep our asses out of trouble

    So to say I don’t respect you guys and Mon AM quarterbacking……i do

    But these past year or two maybe someone could have some sense to not burn on daze w 7 % RH fer (blank sake)
    I’d like to feel sorry, but when zeal, acres burned and whatnot overcome common sense…you might want to sit down with your local emergency manager to help him / her out with damage assessments, FMAGs if your fire goes WFSA and sullies up a community some where

    We have peeops in my AOR not even paying attention burn bans…smdh

  41. #Torchy

    Some positions dictate, through IFPM, that you need to be a current RXB2. An example would be a District FMO or AFMO on a “high complexity” district. Some positions dictate that you once were an RXB2 but there is no currency requirement.

    With that being said you get a LOT of pressure to burn even if your prescription is on the absolute high end and the forecast for the ensuing days doesn’t look good. However; nobody can make you burn since you’re the burn boss but some have a hard time saying no and cave to the pressure…I do not have that problem. Currency is where the issue get complicated because if you don’t stay current, you can’t “do your job” so a lot of us just go to R9 or R8, rip off some acres and then we’re good for another 5 years. Trying to burn in the west is becoming untenable for a host host of reasons, not just fuels. It’s just not worth it.

  42. Yup..apparently upper management in LMA world is akin airline management not able to follow crew rest often violating work / sleep and Crew Rest and pilots ability to stand up and call it. Good that you can stand your ground with som e of the folks who pressure folks and if folks are being pressured due to cash awards….then there ought be some future assignments for management who want acres in WX conditions that exceed prescription to maybe do a little volunteer work during a wildland disaster with the community other than doing “town halls” where they actually get away from the desk and sweat it out at some POD site….?

  43. Yes Why on earth do it during the windy season! They didn’t learn from Los Alamos I suppose!

  44. Actually, the spot forecast was reported by Wildfire Today. I do not know what the morning forecast was. So that is not evidence of being out of protocol,which is my error.

    But still, how advisable was it to be burning in grassland in that part of Eastern New Mexico, when so many large fires in West Texas and Oklahoma have been burning and reporting extreme behavior? Is there communication across the administrative boundaries that dissect a more natural geographic boundary?

  45. Only thing is I mixed up Roswell and Las Vegas. But much of the forested areas west of Las Vegas are not commercial either.

  46. Don, no worries…I don’t think they should have done a Rx burn. I also agree with your comment about fires in West Texas and Oklahoma. I think they should have held off doing the Rx burn just in case these other fires needed the resources. As for your question about communication, it depends. Communication was much better in R8 than in R3. (That probably had more to do lack of resources and office politics than anything.) I also found that communication was much better in states that require burn permits. I know that’s a very controversial statement, but I support permits, because it allows the state to know what’s going on in their state…that way they can be prepare if the Rx becomes a wildfire. If done right, it’s also a way for another set of eyes to look at the meteorology and dispersion models. It also allows the state (instead of the ARA/AQS. who can be easily ignored) to be the bad guy. Hope that helps!

  47. The cause for the Overflow fire was not a flaming rat, it was “an unexpected firewhirl.” This was stated on the INCIWEB update the day the fire was declared wild.

    Now, given everything you just wrote, what expert would put the probability of a firewhirl in that open, arid, dusty country at zero? Especially when just to the east fire activity on large wildfires has often been described as “extreme” in the past month? It appears you are quite willing to impugn the knowledge of others without seeking all the available information yourself (such as looking at the property maps for another contributing factor for a likely escape onto private land). That is a cheap and easy way to act as an apologist.

    And actually, the

  48. The idea that somebody has to be present or involved in an RX burn to criticize the ignition is pure nonsense. These are public lands and we all have to pay for the mistakes made there. Anybody who cannot handle public criticism should not be working on public lands, they should find themselves a little technocracy somewhere to seek their occupational passions. But good luck with that.

    The Overflow fire occurred in an area close to where extreme fire behavior was frequent in the past month, in an area with extreme drought, and where the distance to private property was very short.

    As for the fire on the SanteFe, it is too close to the Cerro Grande disaster for comfort. That was another year in which managers ignored warnings and/or did not communicate them regarding unusual early season fire behavior.

    I was also not involved several years ago when a neighbor who also happens to be a volunteer fireman happened to start a pile burn at the end of a red flag week and on a day when the SC Forestry Commission advised postponing all outdoor burning. He was expecting rain but not the change in winds preceding it, and was clearly unaware of the low fuel moistures. He was fortunate that the escape was caught before it burned other people’s properties or structures, and I made sure the local volunteer department knew how displeased we were that rules were not being followed.

    “Armchair quarterbacking” is a term used to describe a game. This was no game.

  49. If you lived in NM for any time you know how April and May are wind wise, why can’t they do RX burns in the winter, stop doing them during the windy season, Geez.

  50. Man, I have been missing out as usual, but I am going to go ahead and lay it down for the record anyway.

    First, I haven’t been tracking this event and I am not familiar with anything as to the plan or the area, but that weather forecast shot my eyebrows to my hairline and made my butt pucker, so I can understand the urge to second guess.

    Second, I am a burn boss, so that butt pucker is personal. I have been blessed to work in an area that has many great terrain features, room to work, and the ability to burn under low and moderate weather/fuel conditions. I am also intimately familiar with the fuels, terrain, and most importantly “typical” weather patterns, especially when it comes to the more mesoscale effects of each “system” of weather.

    Third, I have little respect for the folks who claim to have experience or education on here using your claimed expertise to jump to conclusions. It’s one thing to use those things to ask pointed questions, it is a whole different thing to use it to jump to conclusions. Let me reference “SR” as an example. They,she,he, clearly have education and experience as it relates to meteorology and fire. Her area of expertise is smoke, so clearly the mesoscale event occurring that we are all raising our eyebrows over is right in her area of SME. Yet, she goes on to state how they should have been relying on HYSPLIT for this event. What? This event isn’t a poor smoke outcome. It is an escaped Rx. HYSPLIT is great and under-utilized. I have used it to inform myself of conditions that led me to shut down burns both prior to and post test fire, for smoke concerns to communities. HYSPLIT gives me wind direction at 500m at lowest. If I am missing something here, I can’t wait to learn, but if I don’t know on this subject, guessing few Burn Bosses know. My point being, if I am sending firebrands to 500m, I have bigger issues beyond the daily weather to be concerned about. We have 20ft winds in our fire forecasts for a reason. SR’s expertise, is 1,500 ft off the mark despite her immense education and experience relatable to the field.

    Lastly, I want to leave everyone with a few questions:
    Do you want prescribed/planned fire? (Seems like majority in here do, they just want the good and idealistic version.)

    If you don’t want prescribed/planned fire, how do you expect to handle unplanned fire events? (I have watched fire rip through heavily logged areas and even vineyards, so you are a fool if you think mechanical treatment alone will be effective to keep fire from unwanted areas, let alone possible in a majority of areas.)

    If you do want prescribed fire, do you want individuals in charge of implementing it being worried about persecution to the point not only admin punishment, losing their job, but severe financial affects and even criminal consequences?

    Do you expect someone making $40-$60k a year (after OT and hazard pay for suppression) to take on this risk? (While apparently their bosses making $125+ salary (who only alow initial land management plans to be made) get bonuses for pushing them to exceed target accomplishments!?!)

  51. I’m just a tax paying New Mexican.
    I’ve lived in NM most of my life.
    NM is mostly desert with the Rocky Mountains in northern NM.
    The Bandelier “controlled burn” came close to destroying the town of Los Alamos. In NM there is NO Controlled Burn. Our lands are so dry the forests are a tinder box. We don’t need Controlled burns.

  52. Here are a few answers:
    1. Do you want RX fire.
    Yes. But I personally want to see an end to the simplistic “good fire”/“bad fire” in which any RX fire is deemed as “good” prior to any evaluation of its results; and any wildfire is deemed bad just because it was unplanned.

    2. How to handle unplanned events?

    It is evident that RX burning has to be viewed as a “high consequence” operation, meaning there is always a risk of disaster if safety precautions or the safety culture fail. In High Consequence operations, the questions are asked: what is the worse that can possibly happen (even if highly improbable). Instead of going deeper, the agencies have pursued avoidance of the public process because it “holds up projects.” Well, I am sure hundreds of homeowners who now have to suffer the indignities of FEMA applications would not have objected to a delay in the process.

    3 and 4. Persecution, responsibility, and compensation. The last two questions are related and loaded. But would you ask “Do you want Doctors who only make $500,000 a year to take on the risk of xxxx while their bosses making $4 million a year get bonuses for exceeding revenue projections?” The answer is yes, but in those few instances of genuine negligence, they are held responsible. If an administrator pressured them to perform unnecessary or harmful procedures to achieve cost savings or increase revenues that administrator should be held liable.

    The point is people in positions of risk generally choose some risk. They are generally not compelled to accept the responsibility; and if they are they have a responsibility to speak up. A doctor who commits malpractice can be sued or even brought up on criminal charges. An FMO, burn boss, district ranger, etc who is similarly negligent should bear the consequences. The key word is negligent. There has to be a review, an investigation, and maybe an inquiry after an RX fire disaster, as there was following Cerro Grande. The responsible parties in that fiasco got off quite easy, they were tasked with more training and nothing more for trying to conduct a complex burn across three fuel types along the boundary of a nuclear weapons laboratory where radioactive waste is still stored above ground. That hardly sounds like “persecution,” when the consequences were so dire.

    In a genuinely strong safety culture, no bosses would push for production over safety. Any pressure to do so should be exposed, and those blowing the whistle must be protected.

    Nobody said it was easy.

  53. Idaho Firefighter:

    I also meant to address one of your first statements: “I haven’t been tracking this event.”

    How can anyone in the wildland fire field not be tracking the Hermit’s Peak fire at this point? After combining with the Calf Fire, it is now at more than 120,000 acres and has destroyed a few hundred homes, and is likely to be another eight figure suppression bill for the treasury.

    This fire should be on the agenda of every safety meeting being held right now. Nobody has to wait for a final investigative report to recognize the seriousness of the consequences from an operation gone awry.

  54. Just another tax paying NM. I cannot comprehend the callousness of what I am reading on this forum in regards to the recognition of the tremendous loss of communities, livelihoods, history, wild life, beauty caused by (at best) poor judgement combined with financial or political motivations?

    Your feelings are hurt because you don’t get to be a hero? Yes the land is going to burn one way or another but if you can’t figure out a better way to manage prescribed burns in the rapidly changing extremes of our new climate reality then please stop lighting out forests on fire when you can’t put them out.

    Only results count – whatever your intentions were are irrelevant.

  55. Its just completly irresposible and reckless to start a “prescribed burn” in such dry conditions, any low IQ person could now that it was the wrong time to start a fire!!!
    Dry, windy and a bad forecast!!
    Now lots people lost their home and or had to evacuate to sleep in a basketball court….. they should start a class action law suit for everything and for putting peoples lifes at risk….

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