Northern NM wildfire surpasses 200,000 acres - Albuquerque Journal

Northern NM wildfire surpasses 200,000 acres

The Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak wildfire in northern New Mexico has now surpassed 200,000 acres. 

More than 1,750 firefighters are assigned to the blaze as of Tuesday morning. 

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said that residents in mandatory evacuation areas who choose not to leave are “rolling the dice” during days of high-risk fire weather.  

“These fires move extremely fast,” she said. 

The blaze is the nation’s largest current wildfire and the second-largest in New Mexico history.

The fire has grown to 203,920 acres in San Miguel and Mora counties and is 39% contained.    

Incident commander Dave Bales said crews are concentrated on the north and south ends of the fire. 

High winds on Monday blew embers ahead of the main fire, in some places “spotting” ahead at least two miles.  

“Trying to go on a direct fire edge with a dozer or a hand crew or even a retardant line — a two-mile spot is going to jump that,” Bales said. “That has been our biggest challenge so far.” 

Crews continue to patrol fire areas that are contained west of Las Vegas, said operations section chief Todd Abel. 

“With the amount of winds we’re having … we want to make sure we have people in there,” Abel said. 

New Mexico has six “strike teams” battling six fires in six counties.  

“This is that elite crew that is called in to tackle the most difficult wildfires,” Lujan Grisham said.   

Officials have spent about $51 million fighting the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire to date, according to state forester Laura McCarthy and data from the National Interagency Coordination Center. 

Lujan Grisham said that she believes there will be “significant federal liability” for the destruction. 

The Hermits Peak wildfire began as a U.S. Forest Service prescribed burn in early April. 

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