Black Fire grows rapidly north of Silver City, NM

Updated at 4:18 p.m. MDT May 16, 2022

Black Fire in New Mexico
Black Fire in New Mexico, as seen from the USFS Lead Plane. Possibly May 16, 2022.

The Black Fire 31 miles north-northeast of Silver City, New Mexico is very active Monday afternoon, as seen in these photos.

Smoke plume from Black Fire
Smoke plume from Black Fire at 3:51 p.m. MDT May 16, 2022. NOAA satellite image.

 


10:22 a.m. MDT May 16, 2022

Black Fire
Black Fire. Photo from a firefighting aircraft, May 15, 2022.

The Black Fire 31 miles north-northeast of Silver City, New Mexico made an impressive run to the east Sunday. Fire officials said that morning it was 1,174 acres; when it was mapped by an aircraft that night at 9:04 it had grown to 18,762 acres and was 11 miles long. Satellite data at 3:26 Monday morning indicated that it had continued to spread vigorously to the east through the night.

It is burning in timber and tall grass in the Gila National Forest 34 miles west of Interstate 25 and Truth or Consequences.

Black Fire map at 9:04 p.m. May 15, 2022
Black Fire map at 9:04 p.m. May 15, 2022. The fire continued moving east after it was mapped.

The rapid growth of the fire Sunday was due to dry fuels, relative humidity that dropped to 2 percent, and 10 mph winds gusting to 22 out of the west-southwest. The data was recorded at the Gila Center weather station.

The weather forecast for Monday near the fire at 6,800 feet calls for 18 mph winds gusting out of the southwest at 28 mph, 86 degrees, and 4 percent relative humidity —  conditions that could lead to additional spread to the northeast.

Black Fire map at 9:04 p.m. May 15, 2022
Black Fire map at 9:04 p.m. May 15, 2022. The fire continued moving east-northeast after it was mapped.

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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.

35 thoughts on “Black Fire grows rapidly north of Silver City, NM”

  1. Not ignited by lightning or power lines. My sincere hope is that the feckless imbecile(s) who set this in motion have a very hot rest of their lives.

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  2. Instead of “controlled “. Burns, why not donate the dead trees for firewood? Supervise that only what you give away is taken , no campfires while cutting away at the fallen trees, less fires! Monitor who enters and who drives out.

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  3. Shedding Light on the Mogollon Culture
    For thousands of years, groups of ancient nomads used caves above the Gila River as temporary shelter. In the late 1200s, people of the agricultural Mogollon (Southern Ancestral Pueblo) culture made it a home. They built rooms, crafted pottery and raised children in the cliff dwellings for one or two generations. By approximately 1300, the Mogollon had moved on, leaving the walls behind.

    Today, New Mexico is mimicked national trends in becoming more urban. The state’s under-18 population shrank. And the state’s affordable housing supply has decreased. Because surrounding townships do not provide programs to address the issues of homelessness in their townships, they give the homeless transportation to areas that do. The homeless that will not leave these townships find temporary shelter. In many cases on Federal land.

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  4. How much money do we spend fighting these fires with our tax dollars compared to the costs of logging and better management in that regard? As a tax payer, I’d much rather spend it on logging and helping a company make a little change in their pocket than putting our firefighter’s safety at risk. Be pro-active and not re-active.

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    1. Logging is not the answer. But letting them burn until the forest gets back to the natural burn cycle that it has is the correct and only way to go. Trying to manage fires only prolongs the issue. Logging does little to prevent fires.

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      1. Thinner the forest, less fuel for the fire to consume. Logging is one way to manage that better. It’s not the only solution but there’s simply better ways of managing the forest than prescribed fires in the middle of the windy season just to watch our forests burn and take several generations to come back.

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        1. Logging does not fix. The brush that comes in after is just as flammable. The mega fires of recent history like this one are fueled by drought, low humidity, warm temperatures and high wind. Nothing stops them. Not burn scars, not prescribed burns, not thinning, not rivers, not asphalt roadways. Nothing. Under those conditions, the fire leaps and burns through all of it.

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        2. Kenny,

          Like I responded on another thread, the trees that need to be removed the most are the small, spindly ones sometimes referred to as “doghair thickets”. They have little or no market value therefore the removal of the trees actually represents a major expense.

          From what I understand the current congress and administration has boosted funding to the cash-strapped forest service so that might help. We’ll see. Hope springs eternal.

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    2. We’ve already given Ukraine about $40bn, that is about 16 years worth of firefighting money.

      An entire fire season costs about 1/2 as much as a single submarine. Hope that pits it in perspective, FS firefighters are a bargain foe th le taxpayers since we don’t make two nickels to rub together.

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  5. I think the forest service should close down all camping in the Gila area until we get some decent rainfall

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    1. I agree. The way things are now, the forests should be closed come spring until we get rain. Far too many people seem to think the rules don’t mean them.

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    2. Hello Mel,

      You’re about to get your wish, all NM National Forests are going into Stage 3 restrictions per our Regional FAM board call. This means they will all be closed and people will not be allowed to even set foot in them.

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      1. Philo,

        Unfortunately, this might come under the same category as “closing the barn door after the horse gets out”.

        I once worked in a scout camp in the Bradshaw Mountains north of Phoenix. They had all the roads closed going into and out of the forest with U.S. Forest Service rangers stopping every vehicle and interviewing the driver. If they did not have specific business in the forest (such as we did) they forced them to turn around. In our case, they let us through but reminded us to be EXTREMELY careful with fire.

        It was a pain in the a__. No doubt ! But it worked! In early to mid July the summer monsoon arrived and soaked everything down. After that first heavy thunderstorm that dumped nearly two inches, we all breathed a deep sigh of relief !

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        1. I agree. It’s a pain, but the forest service needs to be more pro-active than it has been. They should have closed all the forests as soon as Red Flag warnings started being issued. They seem to be still operating on a pre-climate change, pre-drought basis. Things have changed and we need to change our thinking.

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          1. Well, I don’t consider myself to be a true “climate change denier”. But what I feel uncomfortable about with a climate change explanation is kinda like, oh well? What can you do? It’s climate change, right? To me that sorta passes the buck.

            Although some might not want to look at the data I found, I went back and did ten-year rolling averages of rainfall at Tucson. Their records go way back to the 1890s. What I found was that the driest ten-year period actually occurred in the first decade of the 20th century. Another ten-year period occurred in the 1940s that matched what’s occurred since the dawn of the new millennium. So, it kinda appears that that part of the Southwest might not be getting dryer at all.

            But temps told a different story. I found that since the 1890s, Tucson has warmed about 4°F on average. That IS climate change! But is it global or local? Heat islands have been recognized as an issue in Arizona since at least the 1970s. Hotter deserts probably result in higher temperatures in the mountains as well so that snowpack melts earlier and Voila ! You have a longer fire season.

            Global warming and its associated climate change is most alarming in the higher latitudes where sea ice and permafrost are both melting. However, some scientists state that the effects of global warming are far less noticeable in the mid and lower latitudes where most of the people reside. The danger there is that it could make people complacent as to what is a happening.

            In any case, to summarize my opening point, climate change and global warming alone did NOT provide a source of ignition in these New Mexico fires nor did it cause a build up of fuel loads. People did that. Actually, come to think of it, PEOPLE are the cause of both global warming and the fires.

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  6. Has anyone done a study on the specific effects of burns in vegetation types such as pinyon-juniper-grasslands and various mixed conifer and broadleaf types, especially with regard to fuel arrangement in the oxygen envelope?

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  7. I just cannot understand WHY this has to keep happening and usually on a “red flag day” at that.
    Following the weather, there has been no recent lightning storms in the State of New Mexico, so these fires had to have all started by careless people.

    Regards,
    Fred M Cain

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      1. It’s on the Gila, it will eventually run into numerous burn scars. The Gila has done fire mgmt correctly for decades…because they can.

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        1. Exactly ?%. These fires do so much good. As long as there are no homes threatened let them burn

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          1. The Gila National Forest is a protected national forest in New Mexico. It covers approximately 2,710,659 acres of public land, making it the sixth largest National Forest in the continental United States.

            In the spring of 1975, the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service signed a cooperative agreement where the Gila National Forest is responsible for administration of the monument, but it returned to the NPS in 2003.

            The visitor center is jointly operated by the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service (NPS). The NPS is an agency of the U.S. Department of the Interior that manages and maintains several hundred national parks, monuments, historical sites, and other designated properties of the federal government. It was established in 1916 by an act of the U.S. Congress that was signed into law August 25, 1916 by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson.
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Department_of_interior.jpg

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      2. Fire bans do little to actually stop ignitions, there is little compliance and people that are going to do dangerous things with fire…are still going to do dangerous things with fire. A fire ban is more of a psychological false sense of security, at best.

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    1. When you have the winds and lack of humidity as new Mexico has had, it becomes a very dangerous and explosive condition. Thankfully, there has been no lose of life a very little damage to property.

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  8. Incredible photo….it’s the very definition of a “gobbler”
    Be safe out there ….the monsoons will come

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