Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire exceeds a quarter million acres

smoke Calf Canyon - Hermits Peak Fire
Calf Canyon – Hermits Peak Fire in northern New Mexico, May 10, 2022. Seen from Santa Fe. Photo by Allen Olson.

Most of the growth of the Calf Canyon – Hermits Peak Fire Wednesday was on the north end where it spread for one to three miles further north and northeast. As of Wednesday night at 10:39 it remained west of Highway 434. It increased by about 22,000 acres Wednesday to bring the total up to 259,810 acres.

3-D Map Calf Canyon - Hermits Peak Fire
3-D Map of the Calf Canyon / Hermits Peak Fire, looking south. The red line was the perimeter at 10:39 p.m. MDT May 11, 2022. The white line was the perimeter about 24 hours before.
Map Calf Canyon - Hermits Peak Fire
Map of the Calf Canyon / Hermits Peak Fire. The red line was the perimeter at 10:39 p.m. MDT May 11, 2022. The white line was the perimeter about 24 hours before.
Calf Canyon -Hermits Peak fire
Firefighters hold the Calf Canyon -Hermits Peak Fire at Highway 434, May 10, 2022. Inciweb.

Typos, let us know HERE, and specify which article. Please keep in mind our commenting ground rules before you post a comment.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

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.

104 thoughts on “Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire exceeds a quarter million acres”

  1. How hot is this fire burning? Will it result in a high percentage of tree kill?

  2. Depends on the area and why it’s burning. Burnout operations are typically quite mild, mosaic and small percentage of “tree kill”.

  3. When is someone or agency going to be held accountable for starting a “prescribed “ burn when we’ve been in an extreme drought and high winds we’re forecasted?
    Loss of livestock, people’s homes and pets

  4. To Fred, I’d say there will be a high percentage of tree kill with a fire of this magnitude. One “telling” indicator that speaks to your question is the color of the smoke. Generally speaking, when you see darker smoke as opposed to lighter blue smoke, the fire is more intense. This is true whether its a “burnout” or backfire op or a wildfire front.

  5. It’s an extremely high severity burn, what we call “nuked” meaning it looks like moonscape with black sticks.

  6. History might just be repeating itself here. Hasn’t this happened before?

    If I remember correctly, there was a prescribed burn in New Mexico back in the 1970s, I think it was, that got out of control and even burned through part of the lab at Los Alamos.

    Many of the trees following that burn have grown back again. But now, I’m afraid we might lose them again.

  7. Equinsu,

    It seems like we have two different assessments here. Mike’s viewpoint was that much of the fire might be of low to moderate intensity and burning in a “mosaic” pattern. Or am I actually misunderstanding what he’d said? Indeed, some of the news photos I’ve seen suggest that much of it is a ground fire. One online photo that I saw showed a man whose house had been completely destroyed with several ponderosa pines in the background that looked largely unscathed.

    One can only hope at this point, I guess.

  8. I agree with Lisa !!!! The U.S. Forest Service headquarters should be relocated from Washington, D.C. to either N.M., Colorado , Wyoming, or Montana. That is where the forests ARE ! The forests are NOT in D.C. !!!! Once the USFS is relocated, their role should be to support the states ONLY when asked !!!

  9. Lisa,
    I don’t blame you for your indignation. I’m indignant, too, over this. But on the other hand, I’d hate to have to “throw the baby out with the bathwater”. Perhaps getting the U.S. Forest Service out of the state might go too far. That might result in more issues that what we have now.

    But, at the very least, it seems like someone should at least get fired over this.

    Fred M. Cain

  10. Rich,

    Like I tried to post to Lisa, I think turning the jurisdiction of the U.S. Forest Service over to the states might cause more problems than it would solve. *BUT* I like your idea about relocating the U.S. Forest Service out of D.C. and into some other state. That might not be such a bad idea. After all, Amtrak is headquartered in Washington D.C. Look at how well they’re run. 🙂

  11. Wasn’t this same thing tried with the BLM a few years ago? I heard tons of whining and screaming, but again, it was under a different administration.

  12. This is the single biggest point-source disaster and eff up in Forest Service history. What an unmitigated disaster!!!!

  13. Fred, correct. Assume the State of NM owned all existing FS acres in NM. A single large fire could bankrupt the entire State since $50-$150M+ is becoming the norm supression cost for fires these days.

  14. Well, one thing to remember here is that the Forest Service has been under tremendous public and political pressure to reduce fuel loads by using a combination of thinning and prescribed burns. The objective being to reduce the chances of a catastrophic wildfire.

    What I’m wondering about, could it just be that the Santa Fe National Forest got some bad weather information out of the weather bureau? That’s not beyond the realm of possibility.

    But in any event, I agree that they should’ve been a whole lot more careful and the buck needs to stop somewhere here.

  15. Equinsu,

    Yes, I do think you’re right about that. But I’d also have an additional concern here. Suppose a state (not necessarily NM but ANY state) would elect a state governor and state legislature needing to confront difficult state financing issues. There could be a temptation to sell off state lands to private investors more interested in development than in forestry. With the Forest Service under the auspices of the feds that might be more difficult to do – and less likely to happen (I would hope).

    Don’t laugh. There was a push on to do something just like this in Arizona. Thankfully that initiative went nowhere – so far.

  16. I agree the FS, by nearly all measurable metrics, is an unmitigated disaster. However; states simply do not have the budgets and/or manpower to handle lands on the scale of FS ownership. Even if “ownership” went to the states they would be on the hook for:
    -Endangered species management
    -Forest Health
    – Watershed health and improvements
    -Wildfire suppression and post burn rehab
    -Recreation mgmt

    These are just to name a few. A single large fire can easily cost several hundred million $ just to suppress. Throw in post fire burned area repair and it adds 10’s of millions more.
    Now, that is just for a single fire. Imagine if the state had 2,3,4 large fires (pretty normal this day and age) in a single year????? The entire State budget would be annihilated.

  17. I have read a lot of posts on Wildfire Today saying that the FS is in the dark ages and cannot be reformed. I am not suggesting that New Mexico be given financial responsibility for those messed up forests. I love the idea of moving the headquarters, but I want the bureaucrats out, and that won’t happen without breaking it up. We need a new federal agency run by experienced firefighters that pays a living wage and partners with the states.

    Part of what our governor is angry about is that we can’t get into those forests and clean them out. I don’t think anyone in New Mexico is putting pressure on the FS to do burns. So who is putting on the pressure?

  18. All of you need to be in the fires fighting.; rather than armchair couches. I a not affiliated with the forest service; sdoes anyone remember the Yellowstone Fire?? No prescribed burn there and the disaster created by no prescribed burns and cleaning up the are. I tis still a disaster to visit. No one note even the national weather bureau can predict wjhat mother nature will do. How many of you remember your mother’s eyes in the back of your heads. Let the whiners who don’t want clean their rooms manage the forest and see what happens. I know I will receive bad feedback from this; but guess what I don’t give a tinkers ass I’m tired of “those people” sounding off with know idea of which they speak

  19. Lisa,

    I hate to expose and admit my age, but I grew up back in the 1960s. The impression I got from the U.S. Forest Service people at that time was that they were a group of very highly motivated, dedicated people passionate about the forest and their jobs. Sadly, based on what I’m getting now, they aren’t like that anymore. Like you said, they’re more just like a bunch of bureaucrats drawing paychecks but lacking the passion and motivation of the past.

    Now, I realize that they’re not ALL like that but I’m afraid many are. How do we fix this? I have no idea. The situation doesn’t look good to me and that’s for sure.

  20. Well, your typos notwithstanding, I think I got the gist of what you’re trying to say. I think that most people today realize that the total exclusion of fire during the late 19th century and most of the 20th century was a mistake. We’re paying the price now and will continue to pay the price for it for sometime to come. This is an issue or set of circumstances that cannot be turned around on a dime. It’s gonna take decades to straighten out.

    In my own personal, honest and humble opinion, I think they’re on the right track with prescribed burns. But you cannot even consider considering a prescribed burn when there is the possibility of a red flag day developing. Clearly, someone goofed. They need to be confronted and held accountable. After all, that was a pretty big goof. **BUT* it might’ve happened anyways. The Calf Canyon and Hermits Peak fires eventually merged. But I don’t think both of those fires started as prescribed burns, did they?

    I have posted on here before that there are too many people out there too careless with fire. There are probably ten times the number of people in the forests on any given summer weekend as there were in the 1940s or ’50s. The Forest Service is faced with a serious crowd control issue.

  21. you mention that the Forest Service hs been under tremendous public and political pressure to reduce fuel loads by using a combination of thinning and prescribed burns. I believe one good solution is to allow managed logging and thinning which will create more jobs for the residents of New Mexico and other states. Logging used to be a very profitable and well managed industry years back but organizations have taken away this with the idea of protecting spotted owls, leaping frogs and any other species they decide to create????? I wonder just how many spotted owls survived this disastrous wild fire??? My guess is that none survived and instead we have lost precious timber, grass, wildlife, water sheds, many natural resources , too many to mention. Historic and cultural lives impacted so severely that a price cannot be put on these values….

  22. Fred: I worked closely with several federal agencies for a total of about 18 years up until I retired from the utility business in 2001. After that I flew private aircraft for about 10 years. I can tell you that NO federal agency that I worked with does a really good job at anything ! Some do an off and on fair job ( FERC & Corps of Engineers). Others, such as the DOL, EPA, and the NRC are totally incompetent !! I have had no contact with the forest “service” even though I own property near Red River, about 200 feet from the USFS boundary. However, I see no reason that the USFS is any better than “fair”.

  23. Ernest,

    You are partly right about this but, unfortunately, what some logging proponents tend to overlook is that the trees which need to be thinned out the most have little or no marketable value. It’s the big, old-age stuff that tends to provide the best logs and best lumber. On the other hand, it’s those thick, dense spindly trees sometimes referred to as “dog hair thickets” that pose the most severe threat in a wildfire. They can sometimes act as “ladder fuels” that spread fire into the crowns of larger, more desirable timber trees.

    An article in the FSEEE newsletter went so far to suggest that by only removing the best, old age trees has had a tendency to cause a deterioration in forest health by removing genetically superior timber trees. In other words, only the weak, spindly trees are left to pass their genes on with the more disease, insect and fire resident specimens culled out. I’m not saying I fully agree with that simply because I don’t know much about it. But I don’t think that simply adopting a position of LET’S LOG MORE can be the complete and total answer either.

    Fred M Cain

  24. Maybe our governor read this article. She specifically said “clean out,” not “log.”
    I think a large part of the problem is financial. With ground crews, and a whole bunch of chippers, those forests could produce an enormous amount of mulch and compost. But there isn’t much of a market for it. Given our economic system (can I say that, Bill?), there may not be a solution.

  25. Likley mild all the way to severve as with most large wildfires. Lots of variables and you won’t completely know for a year or two

  26. Fred, was this a recent article in the FSEEE newsletter? I’d like to see it.

  27. Sharon,

    No, it was at least a year or so ago. I don’t know now if I can find again or not – I can try. I do remember that it was interesting enough that I contacted the FSEEE and asked if I could get ahold of the author so I could ask him some questions and discuss this and stuff.

    I seem to recall they found an e-mail address for me to contact him and I sent an e-mail inquiry. It bounced. 🙁

  28. I have another thought. Like lots of rural people in New Mexico, the majority of people whose homes were destroyed by this fire probably heat with wood. They wouldn’t be interested in the healthy trees, but they might be very interested in free firewood. Maybe that’s what our governor means —that we have the capacity to clean up those forests, even though we don’t have the money.

  29. Lisa,
    640,000,000 acres of public lands in the U.S., that is 1,000,000 square MILES. The vast majority of it is roadless and extremely mountainous sooooooo, you’re not getting a “wood chipper” anywhere near it. You would have better luck trying to boil the ocean with camp stoves. Fire is the only solution to “clean” it as has been the case for 100’s of millions of years. We’ll never stop hurricanes, tornados or fires…ever. The only thing we can do is get smarter about where we build so that WHEN fires happen (they’re only gonna get worse) we can watch safely from a distance and pick up the pieces later.

    Massive wildfires are the only natural disaster that we actively try to stop while they’re in full swing. We don’t have Hurricane Fighters, Tornado Fighters or Tsunami Fighters. What do we do to mitigate those? We try to build smartly and we pick up the pieces afterwards. It’s high time we admit that we lack the capability to stop some of these fires anymore, especially once they get established.

  30. Lisa —

    “…I want the bureaucrats out, and that won’t happen without breaking it up…”

    If you move the HQ to any of the western states mentioned, a lot of the bureaucrats will quit rather than move away from the social scene they love in DC. The ones that care about their job (and maybe some with no marketable skills) will move. You could fill out the ranks with local hires who really know the forests.

    Maybe a better idea would be to move the entire Department of Agriculture out of DC. Also the Department of the Interior. Shouldn’t it be in the interior of the country? Maybe merge them (Department of Natural Resources?) and move the result out of DC.

  31. Right on, Lisa !! Also, the State Dept. to Nome, Alaska. I heard that you can see Russia from there. How about the Justice Dept to the South Side of Chi Town ?? Big Bad Leroy Brown could take over as Attorney General !!! HUD to Deetroit or Dallas !

  32. Rich Jones.
    If you want to put the FS where the forests are than CO, WY and NM don’t even rank.
    Might as well put them in Alaska if that’s the criteria we’re going with.

    AK has 21.9 million acres of FS land
    CA has 20.8 million
    ID has 20.4 million

  33. My husbands father was a logger and bought up the idea to have controlled logging back to safely thin the forests. Why not? I agree that many species of wildlife lost their lives through FIRE

  34. Lisa,

    The so called “line officers”, which consist of career bureaucrats (Forest Supervisors and District Rangers) with NO firefighting experience whatsoever put unbearable pressure on the firefighters to burn. They do this for several reasons but, in large part, because their performance evaluations are directly tied to “acres treated” targets. Additionally, many get large cash awards if they meet or exceed targets which incentivizes
    totally unnecessary risk.
    You have to understand, in order to make it to this level you have to be a non-boat-rocker and a yes-person willing to mindlessly do what you’re told. People that are well acquainted with the status quo often excel in these positions and have the titles behind them to brace the rank and file into doing nonsensical things. It’s all part of the 70+ year old FS business model, the Fire Dept is supervised by the Parks and Rec Dept.

  35. Calf Canyon was not a prescribed fire. Arguably, if Hermit hadn’t escaped there may have been fewer resources to respond to IA Calf Canyon. Regardless, a vast majority of people who work for the USFS are passionate about their jobs and really care about the resources. Blaming bureaucrats and whetever else does no one any good and does not solve the problem. Putting fire on the ground is a great way to manage the mistakes of the past, and for fire adapted ecosystems it is the best, most efficient method. States do not have and should not have the capacity to manage such large amounts of land. Additionally, people who work for the USFS live in the areas they work, so they are professionally and personally invested in the ealth of their forests and communities.
    Being reactionary does not help those affected or to help the forests.

  36. Can’t change the past. But we can change the future with more fuel reduction programs. Stop the red tape environmentalists from logging Forest thinning they have killed much of the over grown forest along with natural climate change.

  37. I’m interested if you can find the name. I used to be in the forest genetics biz and we used to have this discussion quite a bit.

  38. Having been in the Forest Service in the late fifties and early sixties before the military, I can attest to the fact that there was a high degree of professionalism, at least in timber management, where I worked most of the time (unless the fire boys needed help). In the upper echelons, follow the money. And on the other end of course, contractors set fires so they could make money with their bulldozers. This seemed to be the state of affairs in the ’70’s, but I can’t attest to anything since then, or maybe the last twenty years.

    But self-righteousness, good-ol’-boyism, and outright corruption where there then, but the people in the middle pulled the real weight.

    I hope y’all can get the new people to get off the “kicks” that don’t work, like bulldozing, masticating, and burning–the bulk of “fuel management,” will be recognized as largely potentially dangerous wastes of time and money, not to mention the resource, and replaced by Jack Cohen and others’ advice as well as redirecting those billions to shortening detection and response times and building up suppression forces, not tearing them down.

  39. Calf Canyon? You sure about that??????

    Word on the street here in R3 is that it is an escaped pile burn that blew out shortly after Gallinas. The FS is calling it “under investigation” vs risk the public and political wrath that comes with losing two prescribed fires at the same time.

    The “investigation” will continue but I think you’ll be surprised when the results are made public…which I’m betting won’t be for a very long time.

  40. The only real method of avoiding these escapes, is to completely discontinue prescribed fire. Don’t counter argue with “weather forecast should be better evaluated before implementing” – igniting/holding/extinguishing an RX takes many weeks and months…sometimes needs “babysitting” over the entire fire season. Weather and the potential for escape changes significantly over hours never mind weeks and months. To reduce risk to zero, the activity must stop.

  41. Why not relocate the HQ to Atlanta or Milwaukee? There are millions of acres of national forests back east, and the Southern Region does more prescribed burning than the rest of the forest service combined. Why overlook those areas for a western HQ?

  42. Since you are calling this the number one eff up, what are you comparing it to? What are #2 and #3 on your list?

  43. There are VA hospitals all over the country. Why not move the VA HQ out of DC? Why just DOI and USDA?

  44. A western HQ…in Atlanta? Kinda missing one REALLY glaring criteria, isn’t it?

    No doubt R8 does a lot of Rx, because they can but the VAST majority of USFS lands are in the TRUE west (not Georgia). We also have 1000’s and thousands of homes burning every year and far more issues with fuels/wildfire and watershed destruction. Atlanta/Milwaukee????? Yeh, no.

  45. I’m a district ranger going on three years now. The first sixteen years of my career where in fieldgoing positions. Started as a GS-4 wildlife tech and while never primary fire, I have spent a lot of time on the line either on an engine or hand crew. You really consider me a “career bureaucrat”?

    Also, we report accomplishments in acres but I have never been given any negative rating due to not meeting a target. People miss targets all the time. I missed my fuels target two years in a row due to factors outside my control (being out of prescription) and was not punished for it. Now you’ll probably start to complain that we’re not held accountable since my RF and FSupe know I’m doing a great job in spite of only burning 19k acres instead of 29k in 2021. I’ve also not heard of anyone getting a large cash award for exceeding targets. Would you care to provide any specific examples?

    It’s pretty clear that you have no idea what you’re talking about and you look foolish running your mouth.

  46. I’m all for increasing the number of acres we treat but the default blaming of “environmentalists” is a lazy crutch. Rich NIMBYs moving to the WUI are just as bad, if not worse, than enviros.

  47. Like I have said in another thread…Boeing wants to relocate to DC..probably to do more influence..

    Make USFS trade up for the Glass Palace in Chi Town

    Win win!!!

  48. I’ve been doing fire service for 35 seasons I never seen a fire like this so intense I’m from around that general area where the with this fire is that can ferocious lion I have never seen a fire in this area so the field is really intense so anybody working this fire should be heads up look up look down look around and know who you working for at all times thanks

  49. Bureaucrats quit if they had to move West?
    That’ll will be a test for those who are really serious about the profession

    Might even beat drinkin in the pubs in Georgetown and the public transportation

  50. I did think about that. Except they might all move someplace like Aspen and work from home…

  51. Fed GS bureaucrats move to Aspen????? LOL. Even the highest paygrade Pogues in DC couldn’t afford to rent a Tuf Shed in Aspen!!!

    Interesting Fact: Aspen Colorado does not even have locality pay per OPM. They fall under RUS (Rest of U.S.). Denver/Lakewood locality pay, on the other hand, offers a 28.1% premium over the base GS table.

  52. Dear DR,

    I”ll give you credit for actually working your way up through the ranks and achieving star spangled “Line” status, I’m very proud of you.

    Now for the bad part. My spouse is an RF and my spouse received a cash award in 2019 that was large enough to pay off our essentially new vehicle. My spouses Forest Supts also get sizable cash awards when their respective units make target (although there is nothing punitive if they don’t). I know targets are missed all the time, no thrilling secret there, but you know as well as I do that Rx burning is pushed HARD on the Dist folks. Here’s a pro tip though, the RXB2’s and RXB1’s hold all the cards in that dept, you cannot make them burn and you need them more than they need you. It takes 20 years to become an competent RXB2, longer for an RXB1 so it’s not like you can just train someone up real quick to fill a shortcoming.

    Regions, Forests and Districts can sit in conference rooms and buzzword themselves to death allllllll day long with grand plans, but it’s the RXB2’s and RXB1’s that get the final say. Unfortunately, due to the incessant pressures to burn many of them are quick to jettison that qualification the instant they can. In addition to untenable legal/social/career liability, broadcast Rx doesn’t pay and leaves the burn boss in an exceptionally exposed legal position so Line can get kudos. None of us trust the FS to have our backs. This is evident by the fact that we are having to turn to charities like the WFF and Go fund Me if we get injured in the line of duty so…why would we assume the FS would have our backs if an Rx goes south?? JFK had once said, “Success has a thousand fathers but failure is an orphan”, this quote is especially applicable to Rx fire, where the burn boss can find themselves alone if anything goes badly.

    It’s an interesting juxtaposition really, I am rank and file, my spouse is an RF and I basically make fun of my spouse because they drink the Kool Aid and I find it repulsive. Opposites attract is applicable, I guess. Lol.

  53. Was this another Forest Service prescribed burn to enhance forest health that escaped?

  54. I personally know of a Fuels Div. Who got a large cash award for pile burned acreage. All while sitting at home or in a warm office while the grunts carried Jerry cans through knee deep snow while breathing smoke taking years off their lives and eating luke warm cans of soup for days on end…You know the folks who make $15 an hour, go home to families soaking wet and smelling like gasoline and a camp fire and take all the responsibilities of RXB.

  55. On a previous post I commented that it was the hermits peak not the calf canyon that was an escaped rx…I was apparently wrong.. and yes word on the street (or line) in R3 is that the calf canyon started as a result of an escaped pile burn.
    I’m not sure when it was lit but with the amount of red flag days back to back in combination with very dry fuels I have no clue why it was done.
    Trying to blame everyone in the FS for this is not right though..there’s a lot of good people who do good work still. The folks who made the boneheaded decision to carry out these burns should be fired but to eliminate rx altogether would be a mistake IMHO.

  56. I know what you’re talking about all too well! After college I was a GS-3 and spent 7 years seasonal, which robbed me of retirement SYD because only 2 of those years “counted” towards my retirement. I was a Shot for 16 years, Pulaski engine/lead saw/Cpt.

    Winter pile burning sucks and it DOES take years off your life. I tell my people, don’t even do it, it’s not worth literally killing yourself over some silly piles. I get pathetic pushback from our DR but, well, you can guess how that goes down. lol.

    Any way, yeh, they get cash awards and they are clueless as to the drudgery but when I throw my slash fuel and smoke soaked clothes on my spouses nice clean office ppe…I hope it’s a small gesture to the REAL doers of deeds.

  57. Fred,
    The area where the fire is burning to the north northeast right now there is a lot I mean a lot of dead and downed trees in the understory of the forest and I suspect that it’s going to burn even hotter from here on out. I do think that there will be a high percentage of tree kill in most of the areas affected by the fire. I myself live near the intersection of highway 94 and highway 105 and just driving out there from Las Vegas on highway 518 everything was pretty much decimated even though some of the fire stayed in the understory. I could tell that most of the trees that did survive being burnt to toothpicks ARE going to die because I already saw them turning brown BUT I could be wrong because I’m not into forestry like that. I am a third generation logger/sawmill operator and I have worked some of these forests throughout my life. My father owns land in quemado canyon bordering Carson national forest where the fire is burning now. I haven’t heard of the FS issuing any type of permits or grants for the people from Mora to help clean up our mountains or harvest the timber that WAS harvestable. If the FS did it wouldn’t of been profitable enough at least for us loggers because logging is very disruptive to the land but if you look at the land that’s been logged or thinned in 5 years vs. land that hasn’t been touched by anyone. The land that was logged or thinned 5 years prior look much better and healthier. Especially in thick ponderosa pine ares because grass doesn’t grow under them because the pine needles are to acidic and the larger trees just kill off new growth because they shade them too much. I personally think it wouldn’t of been too hard for the FS to issue permits or grant for woodcutters or loggers to thin or clear cut because most of the people from Mora county and the surrounding counties make most of their living off the land anyway. With all that said our forests will start to grow back in 5-10 years granted the trees won’t be as big. But the FS should have plans in place for future generations because I know for a fact the forest will grow back ten times thicker than it was and we are going to be in the same situation that we are in now. We need plans for our future so it never gets to this point again!!

  58. WOW! Folks are fire up……
    I was an Ignition Boss on a type one burn that got away from us and destroyed someone’s home, I tried hard to convince those in charge to stop our ignitions and just hold what we have, too much pressure to meet targets, we kept burning, I was sick to my stomach for days.
    We will never ever treat enough acres with RX fire to ever make a difference, not ever, I would suggest the way our fire seasons are going now we are punching big holes across the landscape. Maybe that’s enough…
    I do support mechanical treatments around communities at risk, build piles and burn under very favorable conditions, even pile burning has risk. Purchase masticators/Bobcats for every district/park/refuge etc….and go to work making mulch…..great tool….great machine…
    To: I am a DR, you are the exception, not the rule, I have worked with enough of them (DR’s) to know who they are, back in the day most rangers did come up from field, and most rangers were old salt that you could trust, true leaders, the last few FS rangers I worked with were not so good….NPS Dist Rangers, a different thing, are LE and for the most part great leaders….I really enjoyed my time with the NPS….
    People need to be held accountable, as for being fired yes, only if they knowingly operated outside policy which I doubt they did…..FS needs to pay every penny to those that suffered any loss at all…..any….this will be tied up in the court for years and years and years.

    No More RX Fire on a landscape level…….Stop….just maybe with climate change RX has become even more complex than what our skills and knowledge will compensate for…..Just saying….

  59. Yes, this has become too common, it seems the prescribed burns are not being done at the right time. You can’t have hot spots with the winds we now have in the spring. Some reassessment needs to happen, stop repeating tragic mistakes.

  60. The crisis is in the west, because of long term drought. We have beetle kill as a result of the drought, and more catastrophic wildfires because of the dead trees. Then mudslides because of the loss of cover and scorched earth that doesn’t absorb water as well. The terrain in the west is FAR more difficult than in the east, as well. No thanks, for having HQ in the wet south.

  61. The budget cuts have done the worst, there are many less people working the forests now.

  62. Thanks for a well written and informative post. Hopefully it puts gets us to see the big picture. I believe we’re all interested in doing whatever we can to help; and the more educated we are about the root causes and the potential harm that could occur — the better prepared we can be to understand the best solutions.

  63. I’m a DR- Good to see someone that worked up the chain. However, I’m thinking your lack of exposure to shady dealings in the FS is because you choose not to acknowledge them. I’ve got 15 years in the agency as primary fire and can’t count on all of mine and your fingers and toes at the amount of backhanded things that happen at the line officer, DR, and SO level. Yes there are cash awards given, but more often there are gifts bought under supply budgets that should be accountable property that just happen to disappear and were never put into a property spreadsheet. I look at my budget and wonder where $1000 dollars went (I am a Captain so other people have access to my budget). Of course we find out where it went eventually when we see some new hunting gear, or high dollar gadgets that never get used at work and leave when that individual leaves.
    Targets- you as the DR on your unit may not care about them, but you may want to see what’s being said from your FMO down the chain. I don’t know how many different places you have worked…most Forest Supervisor, DR and FMO care about targets and aren’t going to give you a pat on the back for not achieving them. They may acknowledge some of the challenges but it’s usually made clear that they are not happy about it.

  64. Old DRHS-In the beginning of my career I remember rangers mostly having salt and pepper hair and lines on their face. Now I’m seeing rangers that have less time than me which is pretty worrisome at times. It seems degrees and leadership programs (which both have their value and are needed for those positions) are prioritized over experience in leadership and field knowledge. As you know this job regardless if you are in fire requires OJT and boots on the ground experience. There’s a big difference when an old salt is the AA making the final decision to go ahead with a burn vs a 30 year old that went through a leadership conference and hasn’t actually been in the workforce for 10 years.

    What would your criteria be for landscape level burning and are you speaking primarily for the western ecosystems?

  65. My apologies for jumping into this “hot” conversation, but I believe a significant point is being dodged. Is the FS a shadow of its’ former self? Of course. The DR that chimed in earlier sounds like one of the few good generals left in the outfit with a trained/motivated team. Kudos to him, but these discussions revolve around how sound decisions/good leadership have become an anomaly in todays world. In this case and so many others, leadership flows downhill from D.C……Who put those leaders there?
    For all the destructive horror on our forests, lives and nation as a whole, it would seem this is what the American voter wants. Change that dynamic and we would all have less to wring our hands over.

  66. To Paul, I’d say “yes and yes.”
    What you didn’t speak to is the role of the Forest Supervisor & Forest FMO in all of this. They set the policy; the tone; the boundaries; the conditions under which Rx burns are allowed on that unit.
    Monitoring District performance is their role. Did it happen with this fire(s)? Who knows? Was the District Ranger one with sufficient Fire Quals to know what was appropriate for burning or not? Who knows? Lots of questions for a Review Team.

  67. I have family who lost their homes. It really is upsetting that we are hearing that the Pecos Ranger District that started this horrific mess are still employed and out at the fires getting paid and receiving hazard pay and overtime. How does this make sense? They need to be taken off the fires and sit in their office contemplating the devastation they caused. They should never be able to work with anything that has to do with fire!

  68. All very true. After 26 years with the Forest Service, I have realized it is just a new boys (girls) club with line officers being protected for poor decisions all the time. It took me 20 plus years to become a FMO, to achieve high enough qualifications while most of these line officers coming out qualify as an 11 two years after college and then think they are ready to run a district. It shows. This is a large reason we are crumbling as an agency. I am just hoping they don’t dump and run, putting all the blame on the escaped RX on the burn boss. There is a certain hotshot crew that was there and from what I’ve heard first hand lit the unit incorrectly. We light fire on wildfires in red flag conditions all the time and hold it 9/10. Poor technique and lack of patience is often the culprit not mystical winds that come out of nowhere. The blame should be shared and learned from, from that marginal supt and foreman to the Forest Supervisor. But it will probably all get whitewashed.
    We all know awards are given for gs fantastics, earned on the brow of that GS 7 who barely makes ends meat. National Fire Service! I’m sure that’s not the perfect answer but let’s give it a shot. Can it be worse?

  69. This was a prescribed burns? In windy, drought conditions? You don’t need a degree in forestry to know this was extremely irresponsible. People lost home’s…pet’s…wildlife habitats gone. Where has common sense gone?

  70. Who DID pit these so-called leaders there? Don’t know but I hope if we’re load enough we can bring additional scrutiny in them, hopefully get them reassigned to a position where they can do no damage. Hard to fake it till you make it when you’re put under oath for the whole world to see! Sign the petition!!!

  71. What I find upsetting is that the National Forest authorities that initiated the prescribed burn at Hermits Peak have knowledge of climate change due to global warming and recent record of unpredictable extreme winds, obvious drought conditions and still were negligent enough to initiate a prescribed controlled burn, come on people smell the smoke, those of us experiencing this horrific event had no say to begin with!

  72. Caveman, I should have been more clear, yes…western landscapes, just look at the holes that have been made as of late, we are routinely now experiencing mega fires, they are fairly common Most folks have already begun to rebuild within the very footprint , we humans are very hard learners when it come to our history, we like to repeat the same mistake over and over….

    Folks in the SE burn the Dickins out thing with very few mishaps…or should I say escape,,,,,they have had some aviation related mishaps

    Spending millions on RX is a waste of money in the west, community protection using mechanical treatment is the way to go…Just need to find folks that are willing work, trying to find contractors may be difficult……
    Or make policy that bans any RX within 5 air miles of communities at risk…….

    All the best…..

  73. It well melt everthimg except cast iron…titanium ..all else is liquified

  74. Anyone as a U.S. citizen as a land homeowner, should be informed prior to any Federal or State actions, we know this, why is a prescribed forestation controlled burn exempt?

  75. It looks to me that this fire is burning the hottest in areas that have been cut by loggers and firewood gathers. My impression of the forest condition below Jicarilla Peak, out of the wilderness, was a forest that had been overused and abused. This is the same area that is burning so hot right now. Multiple use is really just multiple abuse.

  76. Part of the blame for this fire may be attributed to the prescribed burn that got away from the FS but the real reason goes back decades before this fire started. It is directly related to the 10AM policy where every reported fire had to be out by 10AM the next day. Removing fire from the forests have created the overgrown situation we have today. The other contributing factor is the policy of multiple use which has destroyed New Mexico forest’s health during my lifetime. I remember the New Mexico forests of my youth were not the forests that we have today.

  77. Thanks for the reinforcement, climate change relative to our day and age is real, mind set relative to regular attitude and knowledge needs to be reinforced all fires throughout the word not just New Mexico is the the example our youth relative to how the world is, is the only solution for earth to exist, i am 64 years old and will walk the talk, God bless us all, we are all deserving, especially our planet and the youth, irony is what it is, is this a good attitude? That’s the problem, human beings are not perfect by any means, forgiveness is the word, let’s recognize and strive to be better!

  78. Am going to close my name is Patrick Lopez reside in Rociada New Mexico, semi retired NM State Parks, all I want to express is concern for the day and age and be more informed by Our Government!
    We the People!

  79. I agree with most of what you’re selling with this caveat “we just need folks willing to work”.

    Oh, they’re willing to work, as long as you pay them VERY well! That is grungy, back breaking work and they should all be making six figs for that kind of work…which the FS will never do…so we’re back to square one. FS employees have had it, they’re leaving in droves and giving the middle finger on the way out. NOBODY is going to be stacking sticks, chipping and swamping all day unless you pay them A LOT!! No NEPA planner or “Real Estate Spec” should ever make more than someone doing the deeds in the woods.

  80. Burnt is burnt, what happens next hopefully is a place to reside and make a difference, the world not just New Mexico is in trouble, is what it is? Not!

  81. This phenomena is very common in Northern California where often the only things standing after a wildfire is a home’s brick chimney and singed tall trees. The wildfires move so fast, often just fueled by under-growth, that the flames travel a 100 yards in mere seconds. A wildfire in California is declared when it exceeds a few acres, I forget the measure, but it’s not that many. The annual average CA wildfire count is in the 6000 +/- range. Many homes here are destroyed because environmental activists oppose building restrictions that require 100′ vegetation free clear defensible space from structures. We are only now starting to build homes that can better withstand the fast moving fires. Homeowner rates in CA are increasing as much as 20% or more as a result of huge increases in reconstruction costs due to inflation in construction labor and material costs and recent wildfire loss history. Poorly maintained power lines and high winds have been primary causes of wildfires that aren’t deliberately set by humans.

  82. Agree. Here in N.C. we have the best forest management in the world. Undergrowth is kept to a minimum.

  83. Fred knows what he’s talking about.
    Retired CDF here , old growth are NOT the problem and RX fires are a cost effective method of clearing brush and dead vegetation.
    The difficulty is in the scheduling and management of Rx burns.

  84. Ross Hopkins
    May 14, 2022 at 1555

    Missed one: 16 June, 1977 = La Mesa fire on the Pajarito Plateau, singeing Bandelier Nat. Mon. and Los Alamos Nat. Lab to the tune of 15,444 acres. One NPS firefighter died (unknown CAD) on the line, and we in our ignorance ignored the weapons security bunker fences and “No….” signage, and fought flames on top of these nuclear weapons parts storage areas. Lab. engines were special-order BIG white , elephants (think Star Wars “Walking Tanks”) that were pretty much paved-road bound. Best: got to run a fully trained/qualified but untested (“‘but they’re all just girls”) female hand crew, who did a to-spec line you could clearly see from the air, garnering lots of after-action “atta boys” (oops, “girls). Had to swim
    park stock for safety over the Rio Grande, and ad-hoc placed lawn sprinklers atop NPS quarters. First and only known time had park archeologists on- line to keep mech equipment from trashing archeological resources. At the time, a competent former seasonal ranger at my home park told me in confidence (then at Bandelier) he had to multiple-caution what he deemed a carelessly supervised FS temp work crew doing brush work near suspected ignition point, to knock off smoke breaks on duty… go figure…..

  85. You should ask the feds, tell them to put it out and not monitor. SMH the forest service.

  86. I agree about allowing loggers cut down the dead trees my father had his logging business and we know exactly what you mean because it’s actually healthy for the rest of the forest when we would cut the dead trees for the forest to be preserved see people are so uneducated about that. Logging collecting fire wood for our extreme winters here, (save forest from being cut) they don’t know what they actually saying because they don’t know at all how GOOD it is to cut down dead and standing trees and dead and down because it is cleaning up the forest from the debris that would catch on fire like this and if it ain’t getting cleaned it will burn like it is now…. We are here in Pecos still safe from the fire but what about Las Vegas it definitely could have been prevented if the Firefighters issued a emergency cut down trees for all loggers and for home fireplace burners to harvest the trees, thing is I think saving Pinon seeds is a good thing because we harvest trees so why not plant trees in place.

  87. There are good and bad logging operations, just like there are good and not so good silvicultural prescriptions (which determine which trees to harvest as well as how much to harvest in any one timber stand type). The benefits of a timber sale or Stewardship contracts, are many. Aside from the value from the lumber and jobs, monies can be collected from the receipts (as opposed to sending them back to the Treasury Dept.) and spent on THINNING, REFORESTATION, FISH & WILDLIFE PROJECTS, AND FUEL WORK, on the ground where they are collected. These are high value projects, and not to “get into the weeds” too far, if these projects are not funded by timber sales then their only other source of funding are “appropriated” funding from Congress, and I can tell you from 38 years of experience, those dollars are few and far between.

  88. Give public/government controlled forest land back to Native American tribes because they know how and when to do controlled burns according to the weather. They did it for hundreds of years.

  89. Hard to understand how someone who actually worked on the Cerro Grande would not know the the National Park Service, Bandelier, started the precribed fire that resulted in the Cerro Grande Fire. That day the Forest Service scrapped their prescribed fire plans because of weather predictions–they shared this information with the Park Service but the Park service wanted to kill large trees to restore a forested area to a meadow, and so wanted a hot fire. I was working for the Forest Service at the time and know the Park Service employees were so tramatized the Forest Service had to take over the organizing the fire fighting. All Bandelier employees involved were reassigned to other parks after the smoke cleared.

  90. I do apologize if this sounds harsh. you are mistaken about who requires a defensible space.

  91. Lord knows, it’s about damned time humans take responsibility for ruining our wildland. It’s not just humans, but all the wildlife who call this “home.”

Comments are closed.