New Mexico April 26, 2017
4 Devastating New Mexico Wildfires That Have Gone Down In History
In addition to the standard four seasons, New Mexico also has fire season. Some years are blessedly calm, while other years it seems like one blaze is barely contained when two others ignite. Here are four wildfires that New Mexicans will never forget:
4. Little Bear Fire (2012)
On June 4th 2012, a lighting strike started the Little Bear Fire in the Lincoln National Forest. The blaze scorched a total of 44,330 acres in the Smoky Bear Ranger District, causing $11.5 million in damages. A total of 242 homes along with 10 outbuildings were burned or destroyed. The steep, rugged landscape made this fire particularly challenging to contain.
In the first image, a plane has just released fire retardant over the blaze. The second picture shows smoke from the fire, as seen from space.
3. Cerro Grande Fire (2000)
On May 10th 2000, a prescribed burn in Bandelier National Monument escaped its planned boundaries. High winds allowed sparks to travel up to a mile and the fire spread to Los Alamos, the pueblos of Santa Clara and San Pueblo, and into the Santa Fe National Forest.
The 18,000 residents of Los Alamos and White Rock had to evacuate. According to FEMA, more than 400 homes were damaged or decimated as the flames burned 47,650 acres of land. This fire resulted in $570 million worth of damages, some are which are visible in this photo.
2. Las Conchas Fire (2011)
On June 26, 2011, an aspen tree knocked down a power line igniting a blaze that burned for over a month. A particularly dry year, combined with strong winds, meant that the fire consumed nearly an acre per second. It ultimately scorched 156,293 acres, making it the second biggest fire in our state’s history. During the blaze, 63 homes were lost.
The second picture of the Las Conchas Fire was captured by a crewmember on the International Space Station, at an altitude of 235 miles above Earth.
Here is the land after the fire was finally put out.
1. Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire (2012)
The Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire was the largest to ever rage across New Mexico. It began on June 14th, following two lightning strikes.
Dryness, wind, and low humidity united to keep the fire burning for roughly six weeks, despite the best efforts of 1200 firefighters. During this time, the fire traveled across 289,478 acres, causing air pollution that was experienced as far away as Santa Fe and Las Cruces.
What are your memories of these fires? Share them on the
Only In New Mexico Facebook page.
Personally, I will never forget the moment I realized an especially vibrant sunset over the Jemez Mountains was actually the Las Conchas Fire.
Let’s hope this year is an uneventful one.
To learn about scheduled prescribed burns, active fires, and disaster preparedness measures, visit
this informative website that is the result of collaboration between several state and federal agencies.