It is May, and the United States is already dealing with an astronomical wildfire. On Monday, the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon Fires became the largest wildfire in New Mexico’s history. On Wednesday, the wildfire officially passed 300,000 acres. As of today, the wildfire has now burnt 303,341 acres and is only 34% contained, with nearly 2200 firefighters working to suppress it. In comparison, it has burned more acres than the Caldor Fire that damaged Sierra-At-Tahoe last August, which burned 221,835 acres. The Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon fires do not come close to the biggest wildfire in the United States from last year, which was the Dixie Fire at 963,309 acres. Here are some answers to some of the various questions about this growing wildfire. How Did the Fire Start? They are still investigating what started the Calf Canyon portion of the fire, but an explanation has been given on what started the Hermits Peak wildfire. According to NPR, a prescribed/intentional burn by the U.S. Forest Service caused various spot fires. It got out of control due to the heavy winds that have made the wildfire so dangerous. It was a controversial move on the U.S. Forest Services part, as the prescribed burn didn’t factor in the dry winter the state faced or the heavy winds that were in the forecast.
What Towns and National Forests Have Been Impacted So Far? Some of the towns impacted by the fire include Trout Springs, Ledoux, Mora, Cleveland, Rociada, and many more. Numerous towns have been forced to be evacuated, while many other towns are being told to be prepared to leave their homes and businesses behind. The fire has been estimated to have destroyed at least a thousand structures. Click here to learn more about which towns are under evacuation orders. The Santa Fe, Cibola, and Carson National Forests are closed effective today.
What’s the Upcoming Weather Forecast? It’s not exactly promising. Dry weather continues for the rest of the week, with moderate winds also being a part of the forecast. Next week, there is a 30% chance of rain in Angel Fire next Tuesday, but it will only be scattered showers.
What ski resorts are at risk? The ski resorts to keep an eye on are Pajarito, Red River, Sipapu, Ski Santa Fe, Taos Ski Valley, and Angel Fire Resort.
On Monday, Sipapu entered Go Mode, meaning locals needed to evacuate immediately. Based on the forecast, there’s serious concern that damage could be done to Sipapu. Snowmaking equipment is currently being used to protect the land and the structures, and they are running the lifts without the chairs being on them. According to KRQE, this is so that the haul rope doesn’t burn. The chairs have been placed in a wetted-down area with a firebreak protecting them, as you can see below.
While Taos and Angel Fire are still a ways away from the wildfire, it’s possible that it could reach these ski resorts. Angel Fire announced they will be delaying their opening of summer operations by delaying one week. They are hoping to open on May 27th, but this could change based on the circumstances. Today, Taos announced that the ski resort is now closed to hiking, camping, biking, and fishing due to it being on National Forest land. They have yet to set an opening date for their summer activities due to the wildfire. They are still planning on opening The Blake, The Bavarian, 192, and Rhoda’s a week from today.
Pajarito, Red River, and Ski Santa Fe have been closed effective today due to being on National Forest land. Red River is located in the Carson National Forest, while Pajarito and Ski Santa Fe are located in the Santa Fe National Forest.
Fire crews and staff are busy wrapping the buildings on the mountain. The next two days are critical as winds are expected to shift in our direction. We are so grateful for the first responders, #savesipapu pic.twitter.com/EuGVYUIRXL
— Sipapu Ski Resort (@SipapuNM) May 18, 2022
Videos of the Wildfire: These videos from PBS and NBC News show what it’s like on the ground, and it’s jarring.