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New Mexico’s largest wildfire dates back to Forest Service prescribed burns


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New Mexico’s largest wildfire in history has been attributed to planned burns by the US Forest Service.

The agency said Friday that one of the two fires, the Calf Canyon Fire, was started by a remnant of January pile burn that lay dormant below the surface before reemerging in April.

“A persistent fire, also called a dormant fire, is a fire that remains dormant for a significant amount of time,” the Santa Fe National Forest said in a statement.

The fire reignited and escaped containment lines on April 19, merging with the Hermits Peak Fire due to wind on April 22.

AS THE WEATHER CHANGES, NEW MEXICO FIRE NEAR 50% CONTAINMENT

The Hermits Peak fire was caused by a prescribed burn that escaped.

On May 20, Forest Service Chief Randy Moore announced a 90-day pause in the use of prescribed burning on National Forest System lands.

Now the Forest Service says the fires are 48% contained, covering 314,228 acres.

Nearly 3,000 people are working to fight the blaze as the weather of the fires again threatens efforts.

In a statement, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said the pain and suffering of New Mexicans caused by the Forest Service’s actions is “unfathomable.”

NEW MEXICO FIRE SLOWED DUE TO RAIN AND SNOW IN MOUNTAINS

“This is a first step toward the federal government taking full responsibility for the largest wildfire in state history, which has destroyed hundreds of homes, displaced tens of thousands of New -Mexicans and cost state and local governments millions of dollars. I appreciate the United States Forest Service taking responsibility for the federal actions that have caused this terrible crisis,” she wrote.

“It’s obvious that the federal government must take a close look at its fire management practices and ensure they take into account a rapidly changing climate. New Mexico and the West must take every precaution to prevent fires of this magnitude from occurring, especially as rainfall levels continue to decline and temperatures rise,” Lujan said.

Fire suppression costs to the state exceed $132 million and are increasing by approximately $5 million every day. The forest service will foot the bill.

Red flag conditions were expected to begin in New Mexico on Saturday and continue through early next week.

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According to the National Interagency Fire Center, 27,061 wildfires have burned 1,804,986 acres this year.

Wildfires in the West have become a year-round threat and scientists and fire experts say they are moving faster and burning more than ever due to climate change.

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