Fire shows minimal growth over weekend - Albuquerque Journal

Fire shows minimal growth over weekend

Smoke from the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire rises to join the clouds outside Peñasco As of May 22, it is at 40% containment. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

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The largest fire in state history had minimal growth over the weekend, and officials were predicting good firefighting conditions in the coming days.

The Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire burning outside of Las Vegas, New Mexico, had grown to 310,253 acres and was 40% contained as of Sunday evening. The fire was about 303,000 acres on Friday.

Fire officials said the total acreage was lower than what had been reported the previous day due to more accurate mapping after an overnight infrared flight.

There are close to 3,000 firefighters battling the blaze, which is the largest wildfire in the country. The fire complex, the first part of which was formed in early April when spot fires from a prescribed burn touched off the Hermits Peak Fire, has destroyed up to 1,500 structures and forced 18,000 people to flee their homes.

Stewart Turner, a fire behavior analyst, said he was expecting cloud cover, higher humidity and moderate winds in the coming days.

“I’m looking at several days of work ahead of us where we can get some of this buttoned up,” he said during a Sunday evening briefing.

Officials said firefighters have built containment lines that are so far holding on the east side of the fire.

Jayson Coil, an operations section chief, said a northwest section of the fire west of Angostura is the most active section of the blaze. There are five hot shot crews assigned to that particular area.

“This is the nastiest part of line left,” he said.

Though fire officials struck an optimistic tone Sunday, Coil said to expect the fire to continue to gobble up more acreage.

Some of that is by design. Quoting Frederick the Great, he said: “He who defends everything defends nothing.”

Coil said firefighters would focus on protecting homes and property and letting the fire burn in some areas.

“By no means are we going to let our guard down,” he said. “We’re not going anywhere.”

Black Fire

The Black Fire, burning in the Gila Wilderness northwest of Truth or Consequences, grew 10,000 acres by Sunday evening.

The fire, which is “human caused” but under investigation, has destroyed two structures and led to evacuations in southern New Mexico.

Officials were reporting the fire was 6% contained as of Sunday.

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