While the Forest Supervisor of the Santa Fe National Forest, Debbie Cress, is temporarily assigned to the acting Deputy Chief of Staff position for the U.S. Forest Service in Washington, James Duran will serve as acting Supervisor for the next four months. This is occurring while the largest fire in the recorded history of New Mexico, the Hermits Peak / Calf Canyon Fire, is still not officially contained.
From the Associated Press:
Some have questioned the timing given that the wildfire has yet to be declared contained and recovery work has just begun.Forest officials have dismissed criticism, saying the opportunity for Cress to work at headquarters initially came up in January and was the culmination of her work over the past year with the agency’s leadership.
Cress acknowledged in a statement Friday that it was difficult timing as her home state deals with the aftermath of the massive wildfire.
The 341,735-acre fire is the result of two prescribed fires on the Santa Fe National Forest that escaped control. One was a broadcast burn that crossed control lines during a strong wind. The other originated from slash piles that were ignited in late January that continued burning for months. In mid-April one or more of the piles became very active and began spreading and merged with the other escaped fire on April 22.
In 2018 another pile burning project on the Santa Fe escaped months after it was ignited and had to be converted to a wildfire. A Facilitated Learning Analysis found that “communication” and “prescribed fire preparation and risk” were common themes.
Ms. Cress began as the Forest Supervisor in April of 2021. Three months before, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported, she had transferred from a District Ranger position in Arizona to be the Deputy Forest Supervisor on the Santa Fe National Forest.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Jim and Gerald.