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Gila Wilderness Fire Now 30% Contained, Dry Conditions Persist Across New Mexico, USA

32.8N 107.4W

June 8th, 2012 Category: Fires

USA - June 7th, 2012

Smoke from the Whitewater-Baldy Complex fire in the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico, USA, blows towards the northeast. Slowly but surely, crews are making progress on the largest wildfire in the state’s history, and the blaze is now 30 percent contained. The lightning-sparked fire has burned more than 263,000 acres. Dry conditions across the state are making it prone to wildfires; in fact, several additional blazes can be seen to the south of the Gila Wilderness, near the bottom edge.

Fire in Gila Wilderness Grows to Nearly 300 Square Miles in Area, USA – May 31st, 2012

33.3N 107.7W

May 31st, 2012 Category: Fires, Image of the day

USA - May 30th, 2012

A massive wildfire in the New Mexico wilderness, the Gila Wilderness blaze or Whitewater-Baldy Complex fire, already the state’s largest blaze ever, has grown to nearly 300 square miles as it spreads in all directions. Here, smoke from the huge blaze blows towards the southeast.

Experts say conditions are ripe this season for similar massive blazes across the West. Persistent drought, climate change and shifts in land use and firefighting strategies mean western states likely will see giant fires that will require hundreds, if not thousands, of firefighters on-site. A drought cycle lasting about 20 years has created the ideal conditions for this type of fires. Agencies in New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and other western states are bracing for the worst, given the bleak forecast.

Plumes of Smoke from Fires in Mexico and Gila Wilderness Blaze in USA

31.1N 108.3W

May 30th, 2012 Category: Fires

USA - May 29th, 2012

This image of the southwestern USA and northern Mexico shows several different wildfires. In the upper left quadrant is the Whitewater-Baldy Complex fire, or Gila Wilderness blaze, in the state of New Mexico. Further south, in the lower half of the image, plumes of smoke from several fires between the Pacific coast and the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains can be observed. These fires are smaller and are releasing plumes of smoke less dense than that of the fire in the Gila Wilderness.

As the Whitewater-Baldy Complex fire continues to blow smoke toward southern New Mexico, doctors warn that there could be negative health effects if the smoke lingers for an extended period of time. The fire has so far burned more than 170,000 acres and zero percent has been contained. It isn’t expected to be fully contained until July.

Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire Continues to Grow in Gila Wilderness, New Mexico, USA – May 30th, 2012

33.2N 108W

May 30th, 2012 Category: Fires, Image of the day

USA - May 29th, 2012

A wildfire raging out of control in southwestern New Mexico grew by 30 square miles overnight Monday. The massive blaze is on track to become the largest in the state’s history. More than 1,100 firefighters are battling the lightning-sparked blaze as it burns in rugged terrain in the Gila Wilderness near the New Mexico/Arizona border.

Whipped by strong winds, the Whitewater-Baldy Complex fire, also known as the Gila Wilderness blaze, is expected to break the record set by last year’s devastating Las Conchas wildfire that scorched 244 square miles. It’s burned at least a dozen summer cabins and is a long way from containment.

Experts say low humidity and prolonged drought are complicating the firefighting effort, and officials have had little time to assess the damage. The fire is reportedly growing in all directions and spreading towards communities, ranches and homes on the Western perimeter.

Whitewater Baldy Complex Fire Now 37 Percent Contained

33.3N 108.7W

June 12th, 2012 Category: Fires

USA - June 11th, 2012

Crews continued on Monday to patrol the perimeter of the nearly 280,000-acre Whitewater Baldy Fire (upper right quadrant), in New Mexico, USA, mopping up where needed and cutting off any pockets of fire found along containment lines. The fire is now 37% contained (click here for previous images of the blaze), although other fires can still be burning in other parts of the state (see lower half of image).

The Whitewater Baldy Fire burned in several drainage basins within the Mogollon Mountain Range in the Gila Wilderness. Burned drainage basins are subject to flooding, erosion, mud and debris flows, landslides and other earth movement because the protective cover of vegetation is missing that normally intercepts rainfall and holds the soil in place.

Until vegetation becomes reestablished in the burned area, water and debris will run off at an increased rate in adjacent drainages. Depending on the intensity and amount of rainfall, the drainages may not be able to withstand the water and debris, and flooding may occur. Homes, businesses and other downstream values will be at increased risk until vegetation returns to the burned landscape.