Crews brace for more dry, windy weather as N.M. wildfire tops 300,000 acres

Fire crews continued to gain containment — little by little — on the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire, the largest blaze in the state's history


Matthew Reisen
Albuquerque Journal, N.M.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Fire crews continued to gain containment — little by little — on the largest blaze in New Mexico's history as officials braced for more dry and windy weather.

The Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire is at 312,057 acres and 47% contained as of Thursday evening.

New Mexico National Guard Aviation soldiers execute water drops as part of firefighting efforts, dropping thousands of gallons of water from a UH-60 Black Hawks with Bambi buckets on the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak fire in northern New Mexico.
New Mexico National Guard Aviation soldiers execute water drops as part of firefighting efforts, dropping thousands of gallons of water from a UH-60 Black Hawks with Bambi buckets on the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak fire in northern New Mexico. (New Mexico National Guard via AP)

Jayson Coil, operations section chief in the north, said his firefighters will hand the reins over to the incoming crew in the coming days. In the meantime, he said they welcome the gusty winds predicted to hit the area, calling it a "wind test."

Coil said the windy weather will test areas of fire that have yet to see wind, and can show them where they need to take action and strengthen containment lines.

"We don't feel really good about our lines until we've had one of those tests," he said.

Coil said crews continue to put secondary lines in to the north as they tie in primary lines to increase containment. He said the winds will likely increase inner fire activity, leading to more visible smoke.

Alex McBath, operations section chief in the south, said they have had spot fires jump containment lines on the southwest end. He said it's a result of increased winds and low humidity.

McBath said fire behavior picked up particularly between east Bear Creek and Ruidoso Ridge, but did not threaten containment lines. He said crews are working to contain a 100-acre spotfire that sparked south of Barillas Peak, and should be able to hold it.

McBath said Spring Mountain also saw very active fire behavior, with large smoke columns and 100-foot flames off the trees. But he said the fire is dying off into an old fire scar nearby and remaining in containment elsewhere.

Stewart Turner, fire behavior analyst, said the weather won't get better any time soon.

He said the temperatures will stay high and humidity will be low, letting the fire burn through the night "without any trouble." He compared the conditions to opening the damper on a chimney, allowing the flames to breathe.

Turner said wind gusts will increase as we head into the weekend, but not to the degree of "monster winds" seen weeks ago. Nonetheless, he said the winds will test containment lines — particularly on the northwest end — but should not amount to any big growth Friday.

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(c)2022 the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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