New Mexico wildfire surpasses 200,000 acres as weather worsens

By Shakeel Ahmed

A massive wildfire in New Mexico surpassed 200,000 acres of burned brush Tuesday as high winds and warm temperatures stoked renewed growth and kept further containment at bay, officials said.

The Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon Fire, the second-largest blaze in the state’s history behind the Whitewater-Baldy Fire of 2012, sent up ominous plumes of smoke Tuesday afternoon as it raged with renewed energy in the mountains and foothills east of Santa Fe.

On the fire’s 35th day, the prognosis from federal fire officials was dark — the forecast offered little respite from high winds. Gusts reached 48 mph Tuesday, and all-out hot temperatures were forecast for the weekend.

“It was too windy to get our helicopters and our fixed-wing [aircraft] up,” Todd Abel, a federal operations chief for Southwest fire incidents, said in a video update Tuesday evening.

As a result, the fire’s containment stayed unmoved at 39 percent, with acreage growth canceling out any victories on the fire lines, Abel said.

The day’s red flag warning was prescient, federal incident meteorologist Makoto Moore said during the update. “The weather’s living up to the label,” he said.

Gusty winds were forecast through Wednesday, after which calmer air would meet hot temperatures expected to reach the upper 90s by Saturday.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *