Favorable weather aids wildfire crews

·2 min read

May 22—Carl Schwope said the past 24 hours had been "a tale of two fires."

The incident commander on Saturday said fire crews on the north end of the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire in northern New Mexico continue to make a lot of good progress. But he said the winds that helped in the north spread the fire down south near the Pecos watershed, although not significantly.

"Sometimes what's favorable up here is not favorable down south," Schwope said of the weather.

The fire spread 8,000 acres, its largest growth in days, by Saturday evening, totaling 314,313 acres, but remained 40% contained as officials expressed optimism about the progress made and lower temperatures to come.

Jason Coil, operations section chief, said firefighters on the north end continued to make headway on a spot fire that sparked Friday. On the other side, he said they expected to "button up" containment on the north tip, near Angostura, over the next several days.

From there Coil said they will work to contain the fire south toward Serpent Lake Trail.

Alex McBath, operations section chief in the south, said they had heavy winds hit the area and cause some offshoots to jump containment lines and lead to evacuations. McBath said a few "fingers" of the fire spread west into the Pecos Valley from the southwest tip of the fire.

One of those growths ran down into Bull Creek and led to evacuations of a handful of communities in the area. He said crews jumped on the spot fires and the fire had not grown much Saturday with cooler temperatures in the forecast.

"We'll have to see how those winds hit it tonight," McBath said Saturday evening.

Stewart Turner, fire behavior analyst, said for the most part the change in weather has "made life a lot easier on the firefighters" as a rise in humidity moistened the forest.

He said he was confident the weather will help crews keep the fire in check near Angostura but east winds may test the blaze on the west side. Turner said those winds will try to push fire west and north from the Barillas Peak area.

However, he said the next few days would give firefighters opportunity to get a handle on the fire in that area and stop it from gaining any significant growth.

"I am fully confident with the weather — that they will be able to slow the spread of this greatly if not book it and contain it," Turner said.

Black Fire

A fire in the Gila grew another 16,000 acres overnight.

The Black Fire was at 120,000 acres by Saturday evening with 4% containment. The fire has not destroyed any homes or structures but led to evacuations of several areas.

Officials predict the fire will move to the north, east and west as crews try to contain it in the coming days. The fire was "human caused" but is under investigation.