4 Devastating New Mexico Wildfires That Have Gone Down In History

In addition to the standard four seasons, lucky 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 on top of it. Here are four of the largest wildfires in New Mexico history we will never forget:

What are your memories of these fires? Share them on the Only In New Mexico Facebook page. Personally, we will never forget the moment we realized an especially vibrant “sunset” over the Jemez Mountains was actually the Las Conchas Fire.

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.

The OIYS Visitor Center

Largest Fires in New Mexico History

June 21, 2022

What was the largest wildfire in New Mexico history? 

The largest wildfire in New Mexico history is ongoing at the time of this writing. Currently, the Hermits Peak/Calf Wilderness Fire is the single biggest fire in New Mexico – ever – and it was started, ironically, during a controlled burn to prevent wildfires. It began on April 6th, 2022, and to date, it has destroyed more than 790,000 acres. Thanks to very difficult terrain, very high seasonal winds, and extreme dryness brought on by a decades-long drought, it didn’t take much for the Hermits Peak/Calf Wilderness Fire to evolve into the monster it has become. Hopefully, by the time you are reading this, this nightmare of a fire will have burned out and New Mexico will be spared more heartache in the form of lost acres of wildlands, cultural sites, and more.  

What are the top five largest New Mexico wildfires?  

Currently, two of the largest New Mexico wildfires ever are in progress. One is the infamous Hermits Peak/Calf Wilderness Fire, and the other is the Black Fire, which has burned at least 298,000 acres at this point near Truth or Consequences and has burned for well over a month. Other notable wildfires in New Mexico history include the 2012 Whitewater-Baldy Fire, which was started by lightning and then worsened by lightning when another strike set an area close by alight, which resulted in the two fires merging and becoming one’s worst nightmare. The 2011 Las Conchas Fire was notably awful, though it was only about half the size as the Whitewater-Baldy fire, and the 2012 Little Bear Fire was also incredibly bad for New Mexico’s lands and air quality.   

How many wildfires in New Mexico are there per year on average?  

On average, there are typically about 1,460 wildfire ignitions each year (per the National Weather Service). Perhaps both interestingly and frighteningly, this number is increasing year after year, threatening New Mexico’s land, state and National Parks, lakes, rivers, and, of course, neighborhoods and towns with immolation. As drought continues to worsen, so will wildfires, and New Mexico finds itself in the crosshairs along with the rest of the North American desert southwest.