US Forest Service Started Massive New Mexico Blaze

US Forest Service Started Massive New Mexico Blaze

US Forest Service Started Massive New Mexico Blaze

Two fires started in New Mexico last month. Both fires merged and have devastated forests, grazing land, and obliterated thousands of homes.

New Mexico’s governor said Tuesday that given the ferocity and swift movements of a record-setting wildfire burning in the northeastern part of the state, the damage will be significant with estimates of burned homes and other structures likely to range between 1,000 and 1,500.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham stressed that was only a rough estimate but likely not an exaggeration, saying it’s clear to state and federal officials that there are many victims who have lost their homes and have had their businesses affected.

“And their families are suffering,” the governor said during a news conference with Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell and top state officials. “And that’s my takeaway, the number of families that we have to help.”

The fire has charred more than 468 square miles (1212 square kilometers) over the last 42 days to earn the distinction of being the largest fire in the arid state’s recorded history. It’s also the largest fire currently burning in the U.S.

If you look at InciWeb, you’ll see that many of the fires listed on the site for 2022 have been prescribed burns. A prescribed burn is one way of thinning out dry underbrush, dead trees and limbs, and keeping healthy trees safe. HOWEVER, just as with any fire, a prescribed burn must be watched closely. The two prescribed burns in New Mexico were…not. 

That’s correct. The largest fire in the United States right now was started by the U.S. Forest Service. 

Two blazes that grew into New Mexico’s largest ever wildfire were both started by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), the agency said on Friday, prompting the state’s governor to demand the federal government take full responsibility for the disaster.

Forest Service investigators determined the Calf Canyon Fire was caused by a “burn pile” of branches that the agency thought was out but reignited on April 19, the Santa Fe National Forest said in a statement.

That blaze on April 22 merged with the Hermits Peak Fire, which the USFS started with a controlled burn that went out of control on April 6, the agency previously reported.

Let’s unpack this for a moment. 

If you look at the weather patterns in New Mexico for late March/early April, you’ll notice that conditions were NOT conducive to setting any fires, let alone prescribed burns. Yes, that’s correct, the Forest Service set fires during red flag conditions. Which is why the Hermits Peak Fire went so quickly out of control. It is so large that smoke from that fire has blanketed Northern Colorado several times in the last few weeks. Secondly, I’d be willing to bet that that “burn pile” of branches was significantly large. SO WHY THE HELL didn’t they keep monitoring it??!! 

This is government incompetence writ large. Needless to say, the governor of New Mexico is seriously ticked off. 

Funding for the U.S. Forest Service, due to prior appropriations bills will hand the agency a budget of $5.7 billion, an increase of $300 million. Supposedly this budget increase will give the Forest Service more room to help rebuild burnt forests and do more prescribed burns in order to help forest stay healthy and...alive. 

So, while the fire in New Mexico still rages, what is the U.S. Forest Service in response to this issue? Among other things, conducting a 90-day review of prescribed burn practices. 

Oh boy, that’s so wrong. This is the largest fire in U.S. history and so-called “experts” are saying that stopping a prescribed burn after it gets out of control is BAD??!!

I’m sure that’s small comfort to the homeowners, farmers, and ranchers in New Mexico who’ve lost homes, land, and livestock to this well-managed “prescribed burn.” A burn that is, after two months, only about 48% contained. 

Photo Credit: Screenshot of Calf Canyon/Hermit Peak Fire from Inciweb

Remember that saying from Smokey the Bear?

These days it’s different. Only YOU can stop forest fires, unless you work for the U.S. Forest Service, then let it burn baby!

Feature Photo Credit: Smokey the Bear fire warning via Pixabay, cropped and modified

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5 Comments
  • Robin H says:

    Wow, just wow. Is there anything our government can’t screw up?

  • Anonymouse says:

    First thing that went through my mind when I saw the article:

    DO we have ANY competent people in any gov agency?

  • Bruce says:

    What is the bet that the actual rangers on the ground identified a need for a prescribed burn at some time in the past.

    It then took a ludicrous amount of time for the overpaid idiots at the “top” to authorise a burn and probably tightly specify a very narrow and utterly inappropriate “window” for such action.

    “Management” by crisis1

    Now, where else have we seen that before and SINCE?

    • Scott says:

      Add in historically low numbers of seasonal and other firefighters in the Forest Service ( they’re not actually called firefighters, that’s a secondary job for almost all of them), plus pay so low they could make more working at McDonalds (the cooks on a large fire make double what the Forest Service guys do)… and don’t forget that they play hell getting disability or anything else when they get hurt on a fire.. and it’s not surprising that they’re trying to rush / push envelopes.. “do more with less”.. and this is the result.

  • Howy says:

    50 years ago, New Mexico and Arizona were similar in population. The difference between the phenomenal growth of Arizona and the stagnation of NM? Private vs public investment. Counting Native American lands, National Monuments, National Forests and military bases, 75% of New Mexico’s land area is owned and controlled by the federal government. Outside of the National Monuments and military bases, this land should be returned to the state for management and private development. Oversight of Native American lands should be completely removed from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and autonomy given to the tribes.

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