The fires near Los Alamos are getting national attention now. Here was our view, heading south on I-25 from Santa Fe to New Mexico. Our hotel is filled not just with tourists, but a fair number of refugees from the evacuated areas. The news yesterday reported that the big fire is only 3% contained. Monsoon season is supposed to begin soon, but right now they’re getting storms with more lightning than precipitation.

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J@m3z Aitch is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.
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10 Responses to

  1. Scott Hanley says:

    Reminds me of Yellowstone in 1988. Raw dudes like myself were inclined to think a rare afternoon thunderstorm would help matters, until we were informed that they brought more lightning than rain.

  2. D. C. Sessions says:

    Here was our view, heading south on I-25 from Santa Fe to New Mexico.

    I’m guessing that you mean “… to Albuquerque.” Although there are certainly those who would be reluctant to count the capitol as being part of the State.

    I’m reminded of another cool thing to do in NM: visit small-town cemeteries. Some of them go back quite a ways. We got into checking them for 1918 headstones as part of our debunking of anti-vaccination claims, but they’re cool regardless.

  3. James Hanley says:

    I’m guessing that you mean “… to Albuquerque.”

    Note self: Don’t post before having my morning coffee.

    We got into checking them for 1918 headstones as part of our debunking of anti-vaccination claims

    Sounds interesting, but I don’t quite follow. Were you just counting numbers from the Spanish Flu epidemic?

  4. D. C. Sessions says:

    Were you just counting numbers from the Spanish Flu epidemic?

    From that time in the fall of 1918, yes. But since there weren’t “cause of death” on the headstones, we got two things: raw numbers, plus whole families — often mother and several children within a short period.

  5. Lance says:

    Based on that picture a little burn might do the landscape some good. Couldn’t do much damage.

    Unless you, or your home, were one of the things getting burned.

  6. D. C. Sessions says:

    Couldn’t do much damage.

    Brilliant, Lance, just fucking brilliant.

    For those who actually care about the damage done by big burns, the Rodeo/Chedeski fire just lapped up against one of the highways I regularly drive. That was nine years ago, and even on the edge of the fire it’s still matchsticks (almost all down, now) and brush. No trees worthy of the name. No habitat for squirrels, birds, deer, etc. Very little erosion control, which in turn causes the thin soil to run off and keeps water from soaking in to help build new forest in an area already devastated by a long drought.

    And this is an area covering more than 80 square miles of mountain country.

  7. Reminds me of the Hayman fire in Colorado (in 2002?). The sky in Denver was had a reddish hue to it and you could smell the burning, even though it had to have been at least 50 miles away.

  8. James Hanley says:


    Given the aridity of the SW, I’m sure the ecology is adapted to occasional fires. However that doesn’t mean it necessarily benefits, or isn’t harmed, from fires of unusual size. That’s particularly true given the extent of human encroachment on formerly natural areas, which puts them in a stressed condition prior to the fires. Erosion, as D.C. mentions, seems to me a particularly grave problem, especially near urban areas where impervious surfaces both speed up and more narrowly focus runoff.

    Fortunately, the northwest is very wet this year, so the National Forest Service had deployed some Montana-based firefighters down to New Mexico even prior to this big fire. Give credit where credit is due–the government bureaucracy exercised foresight and made an expedient and effective decision.

  9. D. C. Sessions says:

    James, it’s worse than “the ecology is adapted to occasional fires.” In fact, the forests depend on occasional fires to clear out the underbrush, deadwood, and excessive young trees (“dog hair.”) When that doesn’t happen — as it hasn’t for the last 80 or so years — fuel builds up. Instead of small fires that mature trees with thick bark and tall crowns can easily survive, you get howling firestorms that leave nothing standing and sterilize the soil.
    Pierre, the Rodeo/Chedeski fire in 2002 wasn’t just something you could smell 50 miles away. Socorro is more than 200 miles east, and not only did the town reek of smoke but it darkened the sky for several days. The recent Wallow fire in Arizona produced smoke visible all the way to the Arkansas border (I was driving east on the Santa Fe trail. Our Host isn’t the only one doing road trips this summer.)

  10. Lance says:

    DC Sessions,

    My remark was just meant as a humorous aside about the barren landscape shown in the photo.

    I threw in the “Unless you or your home…” part to prevent the humorless and or self-righteous from hurling sanctimonious rejoinders. You were apparently resistant to this disclaimer.

    As far as the effect of the fire is concerned the area will no doubt rebound, in time.

    Here is an account of the
    “amazing recovery” of the area devastated by the seven megatons of thermal energy released by the 1980 Mt. St. Helens eruption. Temperatures in parts of the 230 square mile blast zone reached 1300 F.

    As I said, the loss of ones home is never something that is easily endured but the ecosystem will no doubt rebound over time.

    The build up of combustible materials caused by preventing smaller fires, and possible polices to alleviate the situation, is something that has been the subject of contentious debate in the west for decades.

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