Investigators determine the Calf Canyon fire was caused by the remains of a prescribed fire

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It then merged with the Hermits Peak Fire northwest of Las Vegas, New Mexico

A map from April 8, 2022 showing the Calf Canyon Fire before it grew, another nearby heat source, and the Hermits Peak Fire.

The US Forest Service announced today that the Calf Canyon Fire northwest of Las Vegas, New Mexico was caused by piles still burning more than two months after they were ignited in late January 2022 The heat remained, sometimes under the snow. , when it was detected on April 9. The piles were made up of vegetation and debris left over from a fuel treatment project.

A statement released by the Santa Fe National Forest said crews constructed a fire line around the 1.5-acre blaze on April 9 and “…continued to monitor the fire over the course of two next few days to ensure there were no signs of heat or flames near the rim.Ten days later, the statement continued, on April 19, the Calf Canyon Fire reignited and escaped A wind event on April 22 caused significant fire spread, and the Calf Canyon Fire merged with the Hermits Peak Fire, which was caused by an escaped prescribed burn.

(Wildfire Today first covered the escape of the broadcast directed fire that created the Hermits Peak fire on April 9. On May 13, we described the burning of the piles now confirmed to be the source of the Calf Canyon fire.)

The term “reignited” is misleading. Flaming batteries were never fully extinguished. Wildfire Today found records showing that on April 8, fixed-wing aircraft fitted with thermal heat sensors began mapping the Hermits Peak Fire nearly every night for the rest of the month. On April 8 at 9:30 p.m. MDT, the onboard technician recorded two small heat sources approximately 4 miles from the fire, one to the northwest and another nearly due west which later became the Calf Canyon Fire. Heat to the northwest, 2.7 miles north of the Calf Canyon Fire, was not detected on subsequent mapping flights, indicating it was self-extinguishing or was successfully removed by firefighters.

Map Calf Cyn Hermits Peak Fire 1h May 20, 2022
Map of the Calf Canyon and Hermits Peak fires as of 1am April 20, 2022 by the Incident Management Team. The red arrow, added by Wildfire Today, points to the Calf Canyon fire that had been spotted and looks like two fires.

The technician later reported heat on April 10, 15, 16 and 20. The fire was unmapped by the aircraft on April 11, 17 and 19. After April 20 the fire was large and merged with the Hermits Peak Fire on the 22n/a when both fires exploded. At that time, the Hermits Peak fire was nearly under control and had been relatively quiet for several days, but driven by very strong winds, the two fires traveled 11 miles northwest in narrow parallel footprints to ‘until the wind speed decreases, allowing the flanks of the two fires to spread laterally until they merge. Winds monitored at a weather station that day near Las Vegas, NM recorded sustained speeds of 40 to 50 mph with gusts up to 67 while relative humidity dropped as low as 6%.

“We don’t have enough resources to do everything we want to do at once, so we have to prioritize the resources we have in the right place,” Incident Commander Carl Schwope said during a briefing on Tuesday. April 23.

The two merged fires, both the result of escaped prescribed fires and now called the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire, have scorched over 312,000 acres.

Map Calf Canyon - Hermits Peak Fire
Map Calf Canyon – Hermits Peak Fire, 12:20 a.m. MDT May 27, 2022

Thanks and hats off to Jay and Karen.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildfires for 33 years, he continues to learn and strives to be a student of fire. View all posts by Bill Gabbert

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