First Fires of the Season in New Mexico

First Fires of the Season in New Mexico

In early June 2013, extreme drought fueled the first major blazes of the wildfire season in New Mexico. Large fires burned in forested areas both east and west of Sante Fe, and at times winds sent plumes of smoke blowing into the city.

On May 30, 2013, a downed power line ignited the Tres Laguna Fire in a rugged, forested area north of Pecos, New Mexico. A day later, the Thompson Ridge Fire emerged in Valles Caldera Preserve, blazing through forests of ponderosa pine. On June 1, 2013, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this image of both fires. Red outlines indicate hot spots where MODIS detected unusually warm surface temperatures that are associated with fires.

According to firefighting agencies in New Mexico, the Tres Laguna fire had spread across nearly 8,000 acres by 9:00 a.m. on June 3; the Thompson Ridge fire had spread 2,000 acres by the same time. The fires were being fought by hundreds of firefighters on the ground and by helicopters and air tankers. Both blazers were less than 5 percent contained on Monday morning.

An assessment of wildfire vulnerability issued by the National Interagency Fire Center in early June pointed out that much of the New Mexico had received less than half the normal amount of rain in May. About 81 percent of the state was in either extreme or exceptional drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. New Mexico will be at a high risk of wildfire throughout the hot and dry month of June, but wetter conditions should arrive in July when weather patterns shift and the North American monsoon brings more rain to the state.

NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption by Adam Voiland.

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