Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon fire complex now largest in history of New Mexico, U.S.
The Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon fire complex burning east of Santa Fe, New Mexico has spread to 121 000 ha (298 060 acres) on May 16, 2022, surpassing the state’s previous largest fire – Whitewater Baldy in 2012.
The Hermits Peak fire started as a prescribed burn in a part of the Santa Fe National Forest on April 19 but strong winds pushed it through steep terrain and caused it to merge with the Calf Canyon fire on April 22 and 23, creating a large fire complex with a perimeter of more than 290 km (180 miles) on April 25.1, 2
On May 10, the northern part of the fire produced a pyrocumulonimbus cloud (pyroCb). These vertical plumes, generated by the heat from a wildfire, can loft smoke and particulates high into the stratosphere.
While this was a small pyroCb, it’s a significant event because it is still early in the fire season, so any indication of such a blowup tells us to be on high alert for more and bigger pyroCb events.3
At 109 276 ha (270 000 acres) on May 13, the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon was the largest burning fire in the United States and the second-largest in New Mexico’s history.
By May 16, the complex spread to 121 000 ha (298 060 acres) and became the largest wildfire in the state’s history – and only 26% contained.
The fire forced thousands of people to evacuate and destroyed hundreds of homes as well as watersheds and forests used for centuries by Indo-Hispano farming villages for building material, firewood and irrigation.
It’s fueled by strong winds and worsening drought affecting the region.
1 Wildfires scorch northern New Mexico, U.S. – The Watchers – April 26, 2022
2 Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon fire – InciWeb – May 17, 2022
3 New Mexico Wildfire Spawns Fire Cloud – Earth Observatory – May 10, 2022
Featured image credit: NASA Aqua/MODIS. Acquired on May 10, 2022
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