US Forest Service Takes Responsibility for Massive New Mexico Wildfires

by Jonathan Howard

Well, this is not what you want to hear. The US Forest Service is taking responsibility for the largest wildfire in New Mexico history. The outdoors can be a scary place. Through a botched sleeper fire and an escaped prescribed burn, the agency accidentally caused two wildfires that have conjoined into one massive blaze.

New Mexico Fires

  • The Calf Canyon Fire merged with the Hermits Peak Fire, both were caused by the US Forest Service in New Mexico
  • The fire is now the largest ever in the history of the state
  • With blazes spreading far and wide there have been hundreds of homes impacted and tens of thousands of people have been displaced
  • State and local governments will have to spend millions to repair the damage that has been done

Through an investigation, the agency found out what caused these fires. In the case of the Calf Canyon Fire, a sleeper fire was to blame. Earlier this year, the Forest Service was conducting controlled burns. During a federal pile burn, which ended on January 29, a sleeper fire formed. These are fires that lay dormant until conditions whip them back up into full blazes.

Although the agency monitored the fire for two days after it was thought to have ended, this one got away from them. It lasted through three falls of snow. So, it was something that wasn’t even thought of. However, this was the cause and the agency failed to get it under control when it should have been.

Meanwhile, the Hermits Peak Fire began after a federally prescribed burn got loose and made it out of containment.

“The Santa Fe National Forest is 100 percent focused on suppressing these fires with the support of the Type 1 incident management teams who are fully prepared to manage complex, all-risk situations,” Supervisor Debbie Cress with Santa Fe National Forest said.

“Our commitment is to manage the public lands entrusted to us by improving the forest’s resilience to the many stressors they are facing, including larger, hotter wildfires, historic levels of drought, rising temperatures, and insects and disease.”

New Mexico Governor Comments on Wildfires

Of course, the Governor of New Mexico commented on the fires. Michelle Lujan Grisham has been following the fires and monitoring the situation on a state level. She’s asked for federal assistance from President Biden during this time as well.

“The pain and suffering of New Mexicans caused by the actions of the US Forest Service – an agency that is intended to be a steward of our lands – is unfathomable,” the governor said.

“I appreciate the US Forest Service assuming responsibility for the federal actions that caused this terrible crisis.”

So, there you have it. With a federal mishap like this, it seems reasonable that the federal government would come in and help. That might happen. However, it remains to be seen. Right now, the state needs all the help that it can get.