The four largest active wildfires in New Mexico all continued to grow Thursday and have burned a total of more than 476,000 acres. Red Flag Warnings are in effect Friday for winds gusting from 30 to 40 mph with single digit humidity.
The 303,701-acre Calf Canyon / Hermits Peak Fire northwest of Las Vegas was subject to single digit humidity and strong winds Thursday afternoon, 10 to 20 mph with 30 to 40 mph gusts out of the west. Since the east side is somewhat secure most of the additional spread was limited to the west side, which experienced in some areas fire behavior described as “extreme, crowning, group torching, and spotting.”
The Black Fire 28 miles west-northwest of Truth or Consequences consumed more vegetation on the northwest, northeast, east, and southeast sides. Fire officials said in some places it spread for three miles, growing on the southeast side to within one or two miles of Hermosa. It has burned 104,969 acres.
Most of the spread of the 21,687-acre Bear Trap Fire 34 miles southwest of Socorro was on the south side Thursday. Hand crews are prepping and conducting tactical burning operations, some of which may be conducted by aerial ignition. Limited movement to the east off the San Mateo crest is expected due to non-continuous fuels in several recent fire scars.
The 45,605-acre Cerro Pelado Fire six miles southwest of Los Alamos has been relatively quiet for several days.
The National Weather Service has taken the unusual step of issuing a Red Flag Warning one and two days in advance for the Calf Canyon / Hermits Peak Fire 21 miles east of Santa Fe, New Mexico. The prediction is for winds gusting from the west and southwest at more than 30 mph with single digit relative humidity. Similar conditions will exist at least on Thursday for the area of the Black and Bear Trap Fires in southwest New Mexico.
Updated 12:10 p.m. MDT May 18, 2022
On Wednesday the northern half of New Mexico is under a Red Flag Warning. Isolated dry thunderstorms are predicted for portions of New Mexico, Texas, and Colorado.
Red Flag Warnings Wednesday.
Chance for isolated dry thunderstorms in portions of NM, CO, & TX.
From the NWS:
“Thunderstorms are expected across portions of the central Rockies this afternoon. Storms should be dry with the potential for new lightning induced fire starts.” pic.twitter.com/kT4KwlJC27
The Calf Canyon – Hermits Peak Fire 21 miles east of Santa Fe, NM was active on the west side Tuesday, but there was very little significant activity on the east side between Mora and Las Vegas.
The Cerro Pelado Fire 25 miles west of Santa Fe was relatively quiet Tuesday. There has been no major spread for several days and a satellite was only able to detect one large heat source early Wednesday morning.
The Black Fire (see map above) 28 miles west-northwest of Truth or Consequences made another large run to the east Tuesday adding another 21,000 acres to bring the total up to 77,360. Fuel treatments and wildfires that have occurred over the last 20 years may slow any major spread to the north, west, and south, but the NIFC database shows no significant history of fire east of the incident.
Another fire in southwest New Mexico, the Bear Trap Fire, is 34 miles southwest of Socorro. It spread southwest on Tuesday and was mapped Tuesday night at 15,215 acres. The fire is surrounded by fuel treatments and prescribed natural fires on all sides except for the southwest — which is where the most of the spread has occurred during the last couple of days.
5:10 p.m. MDT May 17, 2022
High temperatures and very low humidity on Tuesday kept most of the large wildfires in New Mexico very active.
Calf Canyon – Hermits Peak Fire
The Calf Canyon – Hermits Peak Fire 21 miles east of Santa Fe has become the largest fire in the recorded history of New Mexico. At 299,565 acres it has eclipsed the previous record set by the 297,845-acre Whitewater and Baldy Fires when they burned together in May of 2012 in Southwest New Mexico. On Tuesday it was again putting up a large smoke column while a 5 to 20 mph wind gusted out of of the northwest, west, and southwest at 25 mph. The humidity dropped to 10 percent in the afternoon.
Cerro Pelado Fire
On Monday most of the fire activity on the 45,605-acre Cerro Pelado Fire was on the northwest and southeast sides. On Tuesday the fire 25 miles west of Santa Fe was putting up much less smoke than the Calf Canyon – Hermits Peak Fire, judging from the Satellite photo below taken at 3:56 p.m.
Updated to add the 3-D map of the north end of the Calf Canyon / Hermits Peak Fire.
To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the Calf Canyon / Hermits Peak Fire, including the most recent, click here.
Updated at 9:23 a.m. MDT May 9, 2022
Both of the large wildfires in Northern New Mexico were very active Sunday, pushed by the very strong winds.
Cerro Pelado Fire
The most significant spread of the Cerro Pelado Fire Sunday was on the northeast side south of Highway 4 where it spread for about a mile east and crossed the FR 289 road. When the fire was mapped at 10:24 p.m. Sunday a large spot fire had come very close to crossing the next road to the east, FR 287. The fire grew by more than 3,000 acres Sunday to bring the size up to 40,958 acres.
Calf Canyon / Hermits Peak Fire
Most of the significant growth on the Calf Canyon / Hermits Peak Fire was on the north and south sides. When it was mapped at 10:50 p.m. on Sunday the north side, northwest of Cleveland, had advanced for about two miles further north coming close to Holman. There was a large 200-acre spot fire across Highway 518 east of Homan.
The east side of the Calf Canyon / Hermits Peak Fire still appears to be secure and the Sunday night map showed no change south of Mora and La Cueva near Highway 518. There was also no change near Las Vegas. But about 8 miles west of Las Vegas south of Highway 283 it spread south for an additional mile.
The fire grew by more than 13,000 acres Sunday to bring the size up to 189,767 acres.
Updated at 7:13 p.m. MDT May 8, 2022
Calf Canyon / Hermits Peak Fire
The Calf Canyon / Hermits Peak Fire near Las Vegas, New Mexico made it through Saturday’s wind event without any major devastating runs beyond the existing firelines, but it is not over yet. Red Flag Warnings are again in place Sunday for strong winds, low humidity, and very dry vegetation. The forecast for Sunday and Monday is for sustained 32 mph winds gusting out of the west-southwest at 40 to 48 mph with 8 percent relative humidity.
Operations Section Chief Todd Abel said Saturday evening that one of the most active areas on the fire was on the southwest side near Highway 283. He also said all aircraft working on the fire had to be shut down around noon Saturday when the winds became too turbulent.
The fire has burned 176,000 acres.
Cerro Pelado Fire
On Friday and Saturday most of the spread of the Cerro Pelado Fire was on the northeast side south of Highway 4, and on the southwest side. The 37,525-acre blaze is seven miles west-southwest of Los Alamos, New Mexico.
On the eastern side of the fire the FR 289 road is considered a primary line as the fire continued to advance in that direction pushed by 35 mph winds. A spot fire crossed the road late Saturday afternoon. Crews working that night shift described conditions in the area as “unbearable” due to wind, dust, smoke, and heat. Crews later engaged the spot fire at 3:00 a.m. Sunday when visibility had improved. Most of the movement to the east occurred in steep canyons. FR 289 has been prepped and plumbed with extensive hose lines.
Crews are coordinating with the National Park Service for structure protection in Bandelier National Monument and Valles Caldera National Preserve.
A Red Flag Warning is in effect for Sunday. The forecast for the fire area is for 39 mph winds gusting out of the west-southwest at up to 55 mph with relative humidity as low as 9 percent. On Monday the wind speeds will drop to 24 mph with gusts of 31 to 39 mph from the west-southwest.
Most of the blaze is in the footprint of the Las Conchas Fire that burned 156,593 acres in 2011. In a trial jurors found that two power companies were 95 percent responsible for starting that fire and the U.S. Forest Service was 5 percent responsible. The cause of the current Cerro Pelado Fire is listed as unknown.