“Fire is inevitable”

tree density wildfires exclusion
A screengrab from a video below illustrating how the number of trees per acre can increase if fires are excluded from an area.

In the first two in a series of 12 videos produced by the Santa Fe National Forest in Northern New Mexico, Fuels Program Manager Dennis Carril discusses the inevitability of vegetation fires and how fuel, standing trees and deep layers of litter, can build up as a result of fire exclusion. Each video is less than three minutes long.

The videos are “unlisted” on YouTube, however they have been promoted on Twitter by @SantafeNF and @DOIWildlandFire.

Pine Lodge Fire reaches Capitan Peak

The fire is 16 miles east of Capitan, New Mexico

Pine Lodge Fire Mopup
Firefighters mopup near a highway on the Pine Lodge Fire. Uploaded to InciWeb July 3, 2019.

The Pine Lodge Fire reached Capitan and Sunset Peaks yesterday and is visible on the south side of the Capitan Mountain Range and from Hwy 380 and Hwy 70. Low to moderate fire behavior will continue due to outflow winds from thunderstorms, but due to higher humidities and lack of fuel, minimal fire growth in expected.

The 14,783-acre  fire continues to burn on the north and south sides of the Capitan Mountains in the wilderness area. Fire activity is minimal near containment lines and continues to consume unburned pockets of fuel within the lines, but all fire lines are holding well.

The fire was reported June 19 and is now 16 miles east of Capitan, New Mexico.

Crews continue to patrol and mop-up along fire lines as needed. Fire activity is being monitored in the Copeland Canyon and Peachtree Canyon drainages to keep the fire from moving west. The fire may continue to creep further into the Wilderness. Rehabilitation work from suppression activity is ongoing.

There are 145 suppression and support personnel remaining with the Pecos Type 3 Incident Management Team. Additional cooperating and assisting organizations include State of New Mexico, Lincoln County Sheriff Department, NM State Police and Otero County Electric Coop.

(Some of the text above is from InciWeb)

Pine Lodge Fire 3-d map
3-D map of the Pine Lodge Fire at 10:33 p.m. MDT June 30, 2019. Looking north.
Pine Lodge Fire map
Map of the Pine Lodge Fire at 10:33 p.m. MDT June 30, 2019.

Type 2 Incident Management Team ordered for the Pine Lodge Fire in New Mexico

It is 18 miles east of Capitan, NM

Map Pine Lodge Fire southwest New Mexico
Map showing the location of the Pine Lodge Fire in southwest New Mexico. The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite at 1:26 p.m. MDT June 21, 2019.

The Pine Lodge Fire is burning on the north end of the Smokey Bear Ranger District, Lincoln National Forest in Southwest New Mexico. It is 18 miles east of Capitan and 3 miles northwest of Arabela. A Type 3 Incident Management Team is currently engaged, and a Type 2 Team has been ordered. (See the map, above, of the Pine Lodge Fire)

Our very unofficial estimate of the size, based on heat detected by a satellite at 1:26 p.m. MDT on June 21, is that it has burned approximately 1,800 acres. It was spreading rapidly Friday afternoon pushed by a southwest wind.

Satellite photo smoke Woodbury and Pine Lodge Fires
Satellite photo showing smoke from the Woodbury and Pine Lodge Fires at 5:01 p.m. MDT June 21, 2019.

The strategy is to suppress the fire. It is burning off Forest Service Road 130 near Boy Scout Mountain in extremely rough, rocky terrain with grass, pinyon-juniper, and mixed conifer vegetation. Firefighters will continue to assess and engage this fire, taking into consideration public and firefighter safety as the number one priority.

The area is under a Red Flag Warning until 8 p.m. Friday for extreme fire weather. A weather station at the Sierra Blanca Regional Airport, 18 miles to the southwest, recorded a high Friday afternoon of 83 degrees, 10 percent relative humidity, and winds out of the southwest at 15 to 25 mph with gusts up to 40. The forecast for Saturday calls for 87 degrees, RH of 8 percent, and southwest winds at 15 to 20 mph in the afternoon.

Red Flag Warnings
Red Flag Warnings, updated at 10 a.m. MDT June 21, 2019.

Fire at Portales, New Mexico burns four structures

map 267 Fire Portales New Mexico
Map showing the location of the 267 Fire (the orange dots) near Portales, New Mexico at 2:18 p.m. MDT April 10, 2019. Click to enlarge.

A wildfire that started 18 miles southwest of Clovis, New Mexico burned into the west side of Portales destroying at least four structures Wednesday afternoon. The “267 Fire” was reported at about 12:15 p.m. south of Highway 267 between Floyd and Portales during during extremely dry, windy conditions — 82 degrees, 5 percent relative humidity, and west to northwest winds of 30 to 40 mph gusting at 45  to 54 mph.

Officials established evacuation shelters at First Baptist Church and the Portales Memorial Building, in Portales.

The fire was contained late in the afternoon. Firefighters estimated the size at approximately 1,000 acres, but our very unofficial calculation using heat detected by a satellite shows it to be over 3,000 acres.

It was also very windy in Albuquerque, New Mexico Wednesday:

Truck rollover, Aragon Fire in New Mexico

Above: Photo of the truck after rolling over on the Aragon Fire, on the Santa Fe National Forest, in New Mexico; from the report.

In searching through the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned website looking for information about a dozer transport truck that rolled over while it was carrying a dozer on the Cougar Creek Fire in Washington, I ran across a few accidents we previously had not reported on. This is one of them.

On July 16, 2018 a four-door pickup truck slid off a rain-slicked road and rolled over. The accident occurred on the Aragon Fire, on the Santa Fe National Forest in New Mexico. Below is an excerpt from the Rapid Lesson Sharing report:

…Two District fire personnel were driving Truck #1168 from the Aragon Fire to the Staging Area.

[Road] NFSR 505 contains a narrow section where the road is elevated above the natural drainage. Erosion had created a depression on the right side of the road in this narrow section.

The driver steered the vehicle to the left side of the road here to miss the eroded area. The vehicle began to slide off the road and over the embankment. The vehicle rolled completely over, coming to rest upright in the bottom of the drainage.

Several Forest Service employees witnessed the vehicle rollover. The driver and passenger exited the vehicle under their own power. An EMT arrived on scene less than five minutes after the accident. The EMT examined the individuals. While neither had visible injuries, both individuals were shaken-up and complained of soreness in their neck area.

For precautionary reasons, these two went to a local hospital that evening to be examined. Both were released within two hours…

Weather slows fire activity in Western United States

Above: Accumulated precipitation over the last seven days, June 12-18, 2018. 

Moderating weather over the last seven days has helped firefighters make progress on some of the fires in Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Utah. Today’s national Situation Report showed little or no increase in the size of wildfires in those four states. The 416 Fire in southwest Colorado and the Badger Creek Fire in southern Wyoming released a total of 345 personnel over the last 24 hours.

Todd Pechota’s Type 1 Incident Management Team is currently assigned to the 416 Fire, but Joe Reinarz’s NIMO team has been mobilized for the fire, which could be an indication that they expect it to be a long term incident. The west side of the fire has spread into steep, remote terrain above 8,000 feet as it grows closer to an 11,000 to 12,000-foot ridge five miles away. Much of the ridge is above the timber line and may eventually, with patience over time, serve as a barrier. Mr. Reinarz’s team team will transition on Friday.

Below, National Weather Service graphics show the observed precipitation and the departure from normal for the last 30 and 90 days.

precipitation 30 days
Accumulated precipitation, May 20 through June 18, 2018. NWS.
precipitation 30 days
Precipitation departure from average, May 20 through June 18, 2018. NWS.
precipitation 90 days
Accumulated precipitation March 21 through June 18, 2018. NWS.
precipitation 90 days
Precipitation departure from average, March 21 through June 18, 2018. NWS.