By May 30, 2012, a wildfire burning in Gila National Forest in southwestern New Mexico had burned more of the landscape than any other fire in the state’s history.
According to figures released by the U.S. Forest Service, the Whitewater-Baldy fire had burned 170,272 acres (689 square kilometers), surpassing a fire that burned 156,293 acres (632 square miles) near Los Alamos in 2011. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensor on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this view of the fire around 4:00 p.m. local time (20:00 Universal Time) on May 29, 2012.
Lightning started the Whitewater-Baldy fire on May 16, and more than a thousand firefighters have battled the blaze since then. The area’s extremely rugged terrain and strong winds have hampered progress, while a mixture of timber, mixed conifer, ponderosa pine, pinon, and grass all burned. Officials have ordered a mandatory evacuation for Mogollon, a small community near the edge of the fire.
- Associated Press. (2012) Forest Fire Becomes Largest in NM History. Accessed May 30, 2012.
- Inciweb. (2012). Whitewater Baldy Complex. Accessed May 30, 2012.
NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE MODIS Rapid Response Team, Goddard Space Flight Center. Caption by Adam Voiland.
- Aqua - MODIS