In Pictures: Calfs Canyon/Hermits Peak fire - Albuquerque Journal

In Pictures: Calfs Canyon/Hermits Peak fire

As the Hermits Peak Fire was closing in on homes in Pendaries Village and San Ignacio in early April, fire managers made a fateful call.

Nearby, fire crews were monitoring the 1.5-acre Calf Canyon Fire, which stemmed from a pile burn started by the U.S. Forest Service months earlier that had reignited. Supervisors called them away from the small blaze to protect structures in the path of the growing Hermits Peak Fire.

“Fire managers were comfortable with conditions on the ground and felt the resources could be a big help on the Hermits Peak Fire,” a Forest Service spokeswoman said.

But, within days, the unmonitored Calf Canyon Fire escaped containment lines and exploded, merging with the Hermits Peak Fire.

The wildfire has since become the largest in state history, burning hundreds of homes in northeast New Mexico and sending thousands fleeing.

The Forest Service has acknowledged that it initially started both fires as prescribed burns – a way to mitigate the kind of uncontrolled burning and destruction that ironically has come to pass.

“The pain and suffering of New Mexicans caused by the actions of the U.S. Forest Service – an agency that is intended to be a steward of our lands – is unfathomable,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement on Friday in reaction to the Forest Service announcement.

— Matthew Reisen and Theresa Davis

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