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Published June 27, 2012
Southwest Fire Summary(data through 6/21/12)
Data Source(s): Southwest Coordination Center
The Southwest has experienced a substantial increase in the number and size of wildfires in the last month. On May 15, fires had scorched approximately 25,000 and 9,000 acres in Arizona and New Mexico, respectively. On June 20, those numbers jumped to about 74,500 and 367,500 acres (Figure 8a). This is no surprise, as wildland fire activity usually peaks in June before monsoon precipitation soaks the landscape. Fires this summer have also been aided by widespread moderate to extreme drought conditions (see New Mexico Drought Status).
Currently, eight fires are burning in Arizona and New Mexico (Figures 8b–c). The Whitewater-Baldy Complex, located in the Gila National Forest near Glenwood, New Mexico, is the largest fire this year in the U.S. (Figure 8c). It also has become New Mexico’s largest fire on record, surpassing the Las Conchas fire that charred more than 150,000 acres last year. The Whitewater-Baldy blaze started on May 17 from lightning strikes. As of June 20, it had scorched 297,000 acres and was 87 percent contained. Smoke from the fire caused the state’s Environment and Health Department to issue an air quality advisory on May 24.
The Little Bear fire, also in New Mexico, is the second largest active fire in the Southwest. Sparked by lightning, it ignited on June 4 in the Lincoln National Forest, northwest of Ruidoso. As of June 21, approximately 43,000 acres had burned and the fire was only 60 percent contained.
In Arizona, monsoon-like storms brought much-needed moisture to the southeastern part of the state on June 16. Parts of Tucson, for example, received 0.5 inches of rain. These storms, however, did not deliver rain to the Coronado National Forest near Cascabel, where dry lightning strikes set the parched landscape aflame. As of June 21, the Fox fire had burned 7,500 acres there and was 60 percent contained.
The fires discussed here have been reported by federal, state, or tribal agencies during 2012. The figures include information both for current fires and for fires that have been suppressed. The top figure shows a table of year-to-date fire information for Arizona and New Mexico. Prescribed burns are not included in these numbers. The bottom two figures indicate the approximate locations of past and present “large” wildland fires in Arizona and in New Mexico. A “large” fire is defined as a blaze covering 100 acres or more in timber or 300 acres or more in grass or brush. The name of each fire is provided next to the symbol.
These data are obtained from the Southwest Coordination Center website::
Southwest Climate Outlook Staff
- Michael Crimmins, UA Extension Specialist
- Stephanie Doster, Institute of the Environment Editor
- Gregg Garfin, Founding Editor, Institute of the Environment
- Zack Guido, Managing Editor, CLIMAS Associate Staff Scientist
- Nancy J. Selover, Arizona State Climatologist
- Jessica Dollin, CLIMAS Publications Assistant
- Dave Dubois, New Mexico State Climatologist
Please direct your Southwest Climate Outlook comments and suggestions to Zack Guido.
The CLIMAS Web site contains official and non-official forecasts, as well as other information. While we make every effort to verify this information, please understand that we do not warrant the accuracy of any of these materials.... Read full disclaimer