New Mexico wildfire scar burn has forest officials worried

May 29, 2022, 9:32 AM | Updated: May 31, 2022, 3:42 am

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — As more than 3,000 firefighters in northern New Mexico continued to battle the nation’s largest active wildfire Sunday, federal forest officials worried about future flash floods, landslides and destructive ash from the burn scar.

The 7-week-old fire, the largest in New Mexico history, remained 50% contained after charring 492 square miles (1,274 square kilometers) in rugged terrain east of Santa Fe.

Two planned burns merged to form the massive blaze at the southern tip of the Rocky Mountains in the Sangre de Cristo range.

One of the fires was previously traced to April 6, when a planned burn set by U.S. Forest Service firefighters to clear out small trees and brush was declared out of control.

On Friday, investigators said they tracked the source of the second fire to the remnants of a planned January burn that lay dormant through several snowstorms only to flare up again last month.

Firefighting costs already surpass $132 million, climbing by $5 million a day, according to authorities.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham already has asked President Joe Biden to direct the Federal Emergency Management Administration to pay for all costs related to a broad range of recovery efforts.

A Forest Service Burned Area Emergency Response team has started publishing data from its post-fire assessments.

Micah Kiesow, team leader and a soil and watershed program manager with the Santa Fe National Forest, said steep mountain slopes had acted like a sponge before the fire.

“Post-fire in some of these areas, especially the high soil burn severity areas and the moderate, we’re looking at now a steep slope that’s more like a parking lot,” Kiesow told the Santa Fe New Mexican.

He said that could signal an “extreme change in watershed response” during monsoon season.

Flooding presents another problem for communities near burn scars with ash flowing into rivers and streams, according to Kiesow.

Many water treatment facilities aren’t equipped for the expensive, time-intensive process of filtering ash. Experts say ash and debris can harm water quality with high levels of nitrates and phosphorus.

A hazard assessment from the Forest Service and U.S. Geological Survey shows that some burned areas on the New Mexico fire could see heavy debris flows if they receive about .25 inches of rain in 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, firefighters were hoping to make continued progress on the fire before the possible return of drier and warmer weather with stronger winds through Monday.

“This fire has a lot of potential left in it,” said Carl Schwope, incident commander for the southwest fire management team that has been fighting the wildfire for the past 52 days.

Initial estimates show the fire has destroyed at least 330 homes, but state officials expect the number of homes and other structures that have burned to rise to more than 1,000 as more assessments are done.

Elsewhere, 150 firefighters continued to battle a wind-driven fire that has burned more than 8 ½ square miles (22 square kilometers) of grass, brush and salt cedar at the Arizona-California border.

The fire began Thursday on the Colorado River Indian Reservation 14 miles (24 kilometers) southwest of Parker, Arizona.

Wind gusts of up to 30 mph (48 kph) forced the evacuations of 15 homes on both sides of the river Saturday and pushed the 44% containment figure back to 34%.

However, fire officials said the evacuees likely would be allowed to return home by Sunday evening. The cause of the wildfire remained under investigation.

In Colorado, air tankers and helicopters were helping fight a new wildfire burning in the southern part of the state Sunday, the U.S. Forest Service said.

The fire, 18 miles (29 kilometers) west of Antonito, was reported Saturday in a small subdivision along the Conejos River and forced the evacuation of under 100 people north of Colorado 17, said Gregg Goodland, a spokesperson for the Forest Service’s Rio Grande National Forest.

The fire was estimated to have spread to 197 acres (80 hectares) by Saturday evening and did not grow significantly overnight, he said.

People spending Memorial Day weekend at a campground near the fire were told to be prepared to evacuate, he said.

The fire started on private property but was mainly burning on Forest Service land in a steep canyon in a variety of conifer trees along with brush and aspen north of the highway, he said. The cause is under investigation.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Reports: Law enforcement officers shoot man on W.Va. highway

BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) — Several law enforcement authorities shot a man on a federal highway in West Virginia, news outlets reported Wednesday, and video of the shooting was circulating on social media. Authorities did not release details or respond to requests for more information. In the video, the man walks onto the four-lane freeway near […]
18 hours ago
FILE - White House counsel Pat Cipollone departs the U.S. Capitol following defense arguments in th...
Associated Press

Trump White House counsel Cipollone to testify to 1/6 panel

WASHINGTON (AP) — Pat Cipollone, Donald Trump’s former White House counsel, is scheduled to testify Friday before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, according to a person briefed on the matter. Cipollone, whose reported resistance to Trump’s schemes to overturn his 2020 election defeat has made him a long-sought […]
18 hours ago
Associated Press

Inquest: Seattle police shooting of pregnant woman justified

SEATTLE (AP) — An inquest jury found Wednesday that two Seattle police officers were justified in fatally shooting a mentally unstable, pregnant, Black mother of four children inside her apartment when she menaced them with knives in 2017. The six King County coroner’s inquest jurors unanimously determined that officers Jason Anderson and Steven McNew, who […]
18 hours ago
Yesenia Hernandez, granddaughter to Nicolas Toledo, who was killed during Monday's Highland Park., ...
Associated Press

EXPLAINER: Should red-flag law have stopped parade shooting?

CHICAGO (AP) — Days after a rooftop gunman killed seven people at a parade, attention has turned to how the assailant obtained multiple guns and whether the laws on Illinois books could have prevented the Independence Day massacre. Illinois gun laws are generally praised by gun-control advocates as tougher than in most states. But they […]
18 hours ago
Tents are shown Wednesday, July 6, 2022, inside Centennial Park in Anchorage, Alaska. State wildlif...
Associated Press

4 bears killed in Alaska campground reserved for homeless

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska wildlife officials have killed four black bears in a campground recently reserved for people in Anchorage who are homeless after the city’s largest shelter was closed. Employees from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on Tuesday killed a sow and her two cubs and another adult bear that was […]
18 hours ago
Yesenia Hernandez, granddaughter to Nicolas Toledo, who was killed during Monday's Highland Park., ...
Associated Press

‘Taken too soon’: Remembering Highland Park shooting victims

CHICAGO (AP) — Two of the victims of a July 4 parade massacre in a Chicago suburb left behind a 2-year-old son. Another was staying with family in Illinois after he was injured in car wreck about two months earlier. For some, it was a tradition. They were avid travelers, members of their synagogue and […]
18 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

ADHS mobile program brings COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to Arizonans

The Arizona Department of Health Services and partner agencies are providing even more widespread availability by making COVID-19 vaccines available in neighborhoods through trusted community partners.
New Mexico wildfire scar burn has forest officials worried