Extreme fire weather expected Friday in portions of New Mexico and Colorado

“Friday’s expected weather could rival the most powerful fire events of the past decade,” said a NWS meteorologist

Updated 7:22 a.m. MDT April 22, 2022

Extreme fire weather April 22, 2022
Critical and Extreme fire weather predicted by the Storm Prediction Center for 6 a.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Saturday, April 22 & 23, 2022.

The Storm Prediction Center has issued a Fire Weather Outlook for 6 a.m. MDT Friday April 22 until 6 a.m. MDT Saturday April 23 that uses language we rarely see in a fire weather forecast, including “extremely critical” and “dangerous”.

The forecast warns about extremely critical fire weather conditions in portions of central and eastern New Mexico and eastern Colorado, and critical fire weather for portions of the southern and central high plains.

Click to see all articles on Wildfire Today, including the most recent, about the Calf Canyon, Hermits Peak, and Cooks Peak fires.

Sustained winds out of the south-southwest at 30 to 40 mph with widespread gusts of 50-60 mph are expected with 5 to 15 percent relative humidity. The fuels are exceptionally dry and isolated thunderstorms with little or no rain are possible in some areas.

Three existing fires in northern New Mexico east and northeast of Santa Fe could be vulnerable to extreme conditions, the Cooks Peak Fire, Calf Canyon Fire, and the Hermits Peak Fire. Friday’s forecast for the Calf Canyon Fire, which was very active Thursday, calls for southwest winds of 46 mph gusting to 64 mph with relative humidity in the teens and 20s. It will also be very windy on Saturday.

In Northern New Mexico the wind speeds will increase through the morning, peaking in the afternoon.

Satellite photo smoke from fires New Mexico
Satellite photo showing smoke from the Cooks Peak and Hermits Peak Fires in northern New Mexico at 6:30 p.m. MDT April 21, 2022. NOAA.

CNN is taking this forecast seriously in an article written by four of their meteorologists. Here are some excerpts:

Friday’s expected weather could rival the most powerful fire events of the past decade, Zach Hiris, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Boulder, Colorado, told CNN.

Compared to recent extremely critical, wind-driven fire dangers in rural areas, some major population centers are threatened in this event, including Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Colorado Springs and the Denver metro area in Colorado.

“There is high confidence that a widespread extreme and potentially catastrophic fire weather event will occur on Friday,” said the National Weather Service office in Albuquerque.

In addition to fueling the fires, widespread wind gusts of 60 to 70 mph — and even 80 mph in scattered areas — could knock down large tree limbs, utility poles and other structures while threatening to topple high-profile vehicles, the weather service said.

Here is the forecast produced by the NOAA Storm Prediction Center at 12:20 p.m. MDT Thursday April 21:

Day 1 Fire Weather Outlook
NWS Storm Prediction Center Norman OK
0202 AM CDT Fri Apr 22 2022

Valid 221200Z – 231200Z



A highly amplified large-scale trough and accompanying intense deep-layer south-southwesterly flow will emerge over the southern Rockies and adjacent High Plains by peak heating. As a result, strong cyclogenesis will occur over far northeastern Colorado during the afternoon, with a sharpening dryline extending southward along the Kansas/Colorado border and the Texas/New Mexico border. The combination of a strong surface pressure gradient, hot/dry conditions behind the dryline, and strong south-southwesterly flow aloft will result in extremely critical fire-weather conditions from east-central New Mexico into eastern Colorado today.

…East-central New Mexico into eastern Colorado… As temperatures climb into the upper 70s to middle 80s behind the sharpening dryline, deep boundary-layer mixing into very dry air aloft will result in widespread 5-15 percent minimum RH. At the same time, 30-40 mph sustained south-southwesterly surface winds (with widespread gusts of 50-60 mph) will overspread critically dry fuels (ERCs above the 90th+ percentile). The volatile combination of very strong/gusty winds, anomalously warm/dry conditions, and near-record dry fuels will encourage extreme fire-weather conditions.

…Remainder of the central and southern High Plains… The eastern extent of critical fire-weather conditions will be demarcated by the placement of the dryline. Strong 30+ mph sustained southerly surface winds (with higher gusts) concurrent with afternoon RH values below 20% will extend into southern New Mexico, West Texas, the western Texas/Oklahoma Panhandles, western Kansas, and western Nebraska — where fuels remain critically dry.

…Dry Thunderstorm Potential… Another point of concern will be isolated dry thunderstorm development immediately along and ahead of the dryline this afternoon, which is expected to take place along the axis of the driest fuels. Any cloud-to-ground lightning flashes that can occur in proximity to the Colorado/Kansas and New Mexico/Texas border area will do so over very receptive fuels, and likely with little wetting rainfall at the early stages of thunderstorm evolution.

..Jirak.. 04/22/2022

(end of forecast)

Below is the forecast for the area near the Calf Canyon fire 23 miles east of Santa Fe.

Weather forecast Calf Fire
Weather forecast for the Calf Fire area, 7 a.m. MDT April 22, 2022.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Rick.

Wildfire east of Hutchinson, Kansas prompts evacuations

Approximately 30 air miles northwest of Wichita, Kansas

5 p.m. CT March 5, 2022

Map Cottonwood Complex
The red squares represent the approximate location of heat detected by a satellite at the Cottonwood Complex of fires, 1:12 p.m. CT March 5, 2022. The fire is east of Hutchinson, Kansas.

A wildfire that was reported east of Hutchinson, Kansas at about 12:30 p.m. Saturday has prompted evacuations. It started in the 800 block of Willison Road in Reno County and later spread east into Harvey County.

From The Hutchinson News:

“With Catastrophic Fire Danger and wind gusts upwards of 40 mph, firefighters had their hands full on arrival,” said Chief Doug Hanen, chief of operations for the Hutchinson Fire Department, at a 4:30 p.m. press briefing. “Units immediately engaged in structure protection and assisting residents in evacuating.”

The fire eventually crossed Buhler Road and spread rapidly through the Cottonwood Hills Golf Course, Hanen said. Winds then shifted to the west, making multiple fire fronts.

In the area of Fourth Avenue and Palamino Road, fire crews rescued several people from their homes or cars, but some residents also refused to evacuate.

Fire east of Hutchinson, Kansas
Fire east of Hutchinson, Kansas, at 1:55 p.m March 5, 2022. Image from First National Bank-Hutchinson camera.

There are reports that multiple homes were damaged or destroyed and several residents suffered burns.

The Kansas Forest Service mobilized an air tanker, Tanker 95, a privately owned S-2 formerly operated by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. It is now based in Kansas.

Air Tanker 95, an S-2
Air Tanker 95, an S-2, comes in for reloading with water after battling the Cottonwood Complex of fires east of Hutchinson, KS, March 5, 2022. Image by Heath Hensley.

The Kansas Division of Emergency Management has activated two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from the Kansas Army National Guard to assist firefighters beginning Sunday. The helicopters will have external water buckets.

Gov. Laura Kelly issued a verbal declaration of disaster emergency March 3, due to the potential for wildland fires in the state on Friday and Saturday. The declaration allows the state to preposition aerial firefighting assets from the Kansas Forest Service for a quicker response to any fires that may begin.

The video below shows Tanker 95 arriving to be reloaded with water. Smoke from the fire can be seen in the background.

The area is under a Red Flag Warning on Saturday. Strong winds were predicted to come out of the west at 25 to 35 mph with gusts to 50 mph, with relative humidity as low as 10 to 15 percent.

Red Flag Warnings, March 5, 2022
Red Flag Warnings, March 5, 2022. NWS.

On February 8 another fire in the same general area ran for about two miles pushed by winds gusting at more than 30 mph. Shortly after it started Fire Marshal Michael Cain was investigating to determine if it was caused by embers from some of the 75 brush piles that were ignited on private land.

Firefighters battling wildfire east of Hutchinson, Kansas

About 32 miles northwest of Wichita

Updated at 1:37 p.m. CT Feb. 9, 2022

The Hutchinson Fire Department said in a news release Wednesday morning that the fire east of the city, now named the Albright Fire, was about 90 percent contained.

Pushed by strong winds, the fire which started south of Buhler ran south for about two miles from 30th Avenue to 4th Avenue. Firefighters worked Tuesday night and by morning all roads had reopened but burnout operations may cause temporary closures of some streets.

Fire Marshal Michael Cain has been investigating the fire to determine the cause, which is still believed to be embers from some of the 75 brush piles that were ignited on private land last Thursday when snow was on the ground. Warmer weather melted the snow rapidly and at least one of the piles spread Tuesday during the strong winds as the humidity dropped to 13 percent.

Damages to property and the total number of acres burned was still being determined Wednesday morning.

Updated at 12:37 a.m. CST Feb. 9, 2022

The winds that had been gusting at more than 30 mph slowed after 6 p.m. on Tuesday making it much easier for firefighters to begin to get a handle on a large wildfire a few miles east of Hutchinson, Kansas. Combined with relative humidity that dipped as low as 13 percent the strong winds resulted in the fire spreading south for nearly two miles from where it started just south of 30th Avenue near Buhler Road.

From the Hutchnews:

“By the time we got there, it was already running north to south,” Fire Chief Steve Beer said. “Numerous departments were called in to help with structure protection. We started an early evacuation of two or three dozen homes. We got everyone safely evacuated who wanted to leave.”

The evacuation was primarily in homes along Fourth Avenue, Beer said. It wasn’t a mandatory evacuation, so not everyone left.

“The fire didn’t move that fast,” Beer said. “But when it got in the cedars it would throw flames 50 feet into the air. It’s pretty impressive to watch. We’re thankful, it was not as bad as it could have been. The key to this area is to do back-burns. Once we did get ahead of it with enough resources, we got a handle on it.”

Fire officials said the likely cause was embers from woodpiles that were burned over the weekend.

As the weather conditions moderated, by 7 p.m. Tuesday some firefighting resources were being released and residents were expected to be back in their homes later in the evening.

Chief Beer said the S-2 air tanker aided firefighters by attacking the blaze in areas that were difficult for them to access due to sandy soils and cedar trees.

Originally published at 5:44 p.m. CST Feb. 8, 2022

Hutchinson Fire map
The map shows red squares that represent the approximate locations of heat at a fire detected east of Hutchinson, Kansas by the GOES-16 satellite at 2:40 p.m. CT Feb. 8, 2022.

Firefighters are working to contain a large wildfire about three miles east of Hutchinson, Kansas. Strong winds out of the north gusting to 36 mph are pushing the blaze to the south.

Crews are working to save structures near the intersection of East 4th Avenue and Williston Road.

The area is under a Red Flag Warning for high fire danger due to the powerful winds. The relative humidity was measured at 13 percent in Hutchinson at 4:52 p.m. The National Weather Service expects the wind speeds to decrease after sundown.

The fire is approximately three miles east of Hutchinson, about 2 miles south of Buhler, and 32 air miles northwest of Wichita.

Air tanker 95, a privately owned S-2, was dispatched to the fire. It is operated by Ag Air Service out of Nikerson, Kansas.

Air Tanker 95, an S-2
Air Tanker 95, an S-2. Kansas Forest Service photo.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Matt.

Kansas National Guard deploys Blackhawk helicopters to aid firefighters during wildfire siege

Kansas Forest Service reports that the largest blaze burned about 365,000 acres

12:52 p.m. Dec. 17, 2021 CST

Fire near Natoma, Kansas, Dec. 16, 2021
Fire near Natoma, Kansas, Dec. 16, 2021. Kansas Forest Service photo.

The Kansas Army National Guard mobilized Blackhawk helicopters to assist firefighters battling a rash of wildfires that began Wednesday. The very strong winds gusting to 80 mph made it impossible for any aircraft to work the fires until Thursday when the wind speeds decreased. A weather station at the Russell Airport recorded wind gusts of 100 mph, which is 26 mph higher than the minimum speed for a Category 1 hurricane.

The Kansas Forest Service said Thursday that 11 large fires burned nearly 400,000 acres this week in the state which is entering its dry season while the extreme western part is impacted by drought. The agency reported that the largest fire, dubbed for now the “Four Counties Fire” which is in portions of four counties between Codell and Russell, burned approximately 365,000 acres. The map below shows the fire at about 270,000 acres.

Map of wildfires in Kansas, Dec. 16, 2021
Map of wildfires in Kansas, Dec. 16, 2021. Kansas Forest Service.

Some of the fires are still burning, but not with the speed and intensity seen on Wednesday. The weather forecast for Russell, KS Friday calls for north-northwest winds 8 to 14 mph with gusts to 23 mph, with relative humidity in the mid 30s. Friday night and until Saturday afternoon the winds will be 14 to 18 mph out of the north-northwest with gusts up to 26 mph. Saturday afternoon the humidity will drop into the mid 20s. These conditions will make it difficult for firefighters to put the fires to bed.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly issued a declaration of a State of Disaster Emergency on Thursday, Dec. 9 due to elevated dangers of wildland fires.

“Much of Kansas is recovering from yesterday’s storms and wildland fires,” said Mark Neely, State Fire Management Officer, Kansas Forest Service on Dec. 16. “The Kansas Forest Service is working with state and local partners to get fires under control and mopped up so that we can return to normal conditions.”

In a fire outbreak of this size, it can be difficult to keep track of numerous simultaneous incidents, and that is the case this week.

“In Kansas, local officials retain full control of all emergencies, so State agencies receive information as local authorities choose to provide it,” the Kansas Forest Service reported Friday. “It is believed that several of the fires are fully or mostly contained, several will require several more days of work, but details from local officials are still very slow to come in.  Additionally, tornadoes, severe winds, dust storms, etc., created havoc nearly statewide.”

Kansas Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopter fire
Kansas Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopter from the 1st Battalion, 108th Aviation Regiment is used to mop up a fire in western Kansas. Image provided by the Kansas Army National Guard Dec. 17, 2021.

Very strong winds spread fires in Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas

400,000 acres burned in Kansas wildfires Wednesday

Updated 4:35 p.m. Dec. 16, 2021 CST

wildfires near Russell, Kansas map
The red dots represent heat detected by satellites on wildfires near Russell, Kansas, as late as 3:06 a.m. CST Dec. 16, 2021. Clouds and dust at times blocked the view from the satellites and/or the light vegetation burned and cooled between satellite overflights. Therefore, the burned area is likely much larger than shown by the red dots.

A large wildfire in Russell and Ellis Counties in Kansas has burned approximately 96,000 acres and destroyed at least 10 homes, according to the Russell County Sheriff. Satellites were still detecting heat on the fire at 3:06 a.m. CST Thursday. The fire is north of Interstate 70, and is northwest, north, and northeast of Russell, about 7 miles from the city. (UPDATE at 1 a.m. CST Dec. 17: The Kansas Forest Service said the “Four County Fire” has burned 365,850 acres.)

The fire was pushed by very strong winds on Wednesday. A weather station at the Russell Airport recorded wind gusts of 100 mph, which is 26 mph higher than the minimum speed for a Category 1 hurricane.

Many other fires were occurring at the same time in Western Kansas and the panhandles of Oklahoma and Texas (see below).

The Kansas Forest Service assessed the situation Thursday morning:

Wednesday pretty much stripped western Kansas of fire resources, between multiple major fires in critical fire weather, and many traffic crashes. Initial assessment indicates that 11 fires burned a cumulative acreage of nearly 400,000 acres. Further damage details are being assessed by local agencies at this time. Multiple resources will committed, likely for several days.

Dust picked up by the winds created visibility problems, requiring some highways to be closed Wednesday.

Satellite photo, fires in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas map
Satellite photo, fires in Oklahoma, and Texas, Dec. 15, 2021. The red areas indicate fires.

Eric Metzger, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Wichita, told the New York Times that before Wednesday, Kansas had not had any rain for over a month. The state has seen fires in December, when the weather gets dry, he added, but this one felt different.

“I’ve lived out here for more than 20 years,” he added. “This is historic for us.”

Satellite photo map, fires in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas
Satellite photo, fires in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, 3:51 p.m. CST Dec. 15, 2021. The red dots represent heat detected on fires by satellites.

Update on two fires in the Texas panhandle mentioned earlier, with information from the Texas Forest Service Thursday afternoon: The North 207 Fire between Pampa and Borger is listed at 23,810 acres. The Parker Creek Fire southwest of Dumas is estimated at 11,066 acres.

Thursday morning the Oklahoma Forest Service said the Cobb Fire in the panhandle had burned about 10,000 acres.

Originally published at 8:57 p.m. Dec. 15, 2021 CST

Map of fires in the panhandles of TX and OK
Map of fires in the panhandles of TX and OK. December 15, 2021.

Very strong winds in Kansas and the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma caused wildfires to spread very rapidly Wednesday. Blowing dust also caused severe visibility problems, and prompted the street lights to come on at noon in at least one area.


Due to the Cobb Fire in the Oklahoma panhandle the Guymon Police Department in a 2 p.m. Facebook post on Wednesday encouraged the residents on the northwest side of town to evacuate. Heat data from satellites at 1:55 p.m. CST indicated it had burned approximately 5,000 acres northwest of Guymon. The Oklahoma Forest Service said at 7 p.m. it had grown to about 10,000 acres. The eastward progression toward Guymon had been stopped, they said, and one structure was destroyed. Wind gusts up to 79 mph were recorded in the area.

Cobb Fire. OFS photo. Oklahoma.
Cobb Fire. Oklahoma Forest Service photo. December 15, 2021.


Fires in the Texas panhandle were spreading to the east-northeast on Wednesday, also pushed by very strong winds gusting over 80 mph.

The North 207 Fire in Carson County has burned an estimated 15,000 acres about 5 miles southeast of Borger. The Texas Forest Service said it has crossed Highway 152.

North 207 Fire. Texas
North 207 Fire. Texas Forest Service photo. December 15, 2021.

The Parker Creek Fire started in Oldam County and spread into Hartley County southeast of Channing, about 14 miles south of Dumas. The TFS said at 6:08 p.m. it had burned 3,500 acres but satellite heat data indicates it could be larger.

Parker Creek Fire
Parker Creek Fire, December 15, 2021. Texas Forest Service photo.


There are also numerous fires in western Kansas, also pushed by strong winds out of the west measured in at least one location at 100 mph. The New York Times reported that two fires merged in Russell and Ellsworth Counties in the central part of the state to form a massive blaze about 40 miles long, according to Eric Metzger, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Critical fire weather predicted Wednesday for parts of OK, CO, KS, and TX

Low humidity with wind gusts above 65 mph

Fire Weather Watch
Fire Weather Watch issued Dec. 13 for Wednesday Dec. 15, 2021. NWS & Google.

Critical fire weather is in the forecast Wednesday for southeast Colorado, western Kansas, and the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma. A Fire Weather Watch issued by the National Weather Service Monday morning predicts strong southwest winds Wednesday 35 to 45 mph with gusts to 65 and relative humidity in the low teens. Red Flag Warnings will probably be issued for Wednesday.

With the area experiencing levels of drought ranging from moderate to extreme, the fuels are dry and could be easily ignited.

Drought Monitor, Dec. 7, 2021.
Drought Monitor, Dec. 7, 2021.

Since December 7 the Energy Release Component (ERC) for the Texas panhandle has been setting new daily records for the highest ever recorded for those dates. On December 12 it was 72 while the average for this time of the year is in the low 40s. The ERC can help predict the intensity and rate of spread of a wildland fire. It is expected to remain in record-setting territory through at least December 19.

Energy Release Component for the Texas Panhandle
Energy Release Component for the Texas Panhandle, generated Dec. 13, 2021.

The Texas Forest Service has arranged for two large air tankers to be in the area to “support suppression efforts in Oklahoma and Texas as requested”. They are opening the Air Tanker base at Abilene.