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The recent wildfire in New Mexico shocked the whole world as it became one of the largest wildfires ever seen in the state’s history. However, not only did climate change cause this massive disaster, destroying nearly 1,000 homes, but humans also had a part to play.
The wildfire in New Mexico- The Calf Canyon Fire and The Hermits Peak Fire– began as two separate wildfires that combined to destroy several hectares of land and displace hundreds of people. According to Forest Officials, both the fires were planned by US forest managers over the winter as a preventive measure. The Forest Service stated that what started as a controlled fire in the Santa Fe National Forest in January was meant to clear the land of trees and other vegetation to prevent severe wildfires in the future.
Ironically, what turned out to be a plan to prevent massive wildfires became the cause of the state’s largest wildfire. The Forest Service thoroughly investigated the wildfire in New Mexico on the 27th of May, 2022. Investigators placed the blame for severe destruction on both wildfires that continued to smolder for months.
Federal investigators shift responsibility more towards the US Forest Service for starting a wildfire that has destroyed more than 500 homes. The flames raged through almost 500 square miles of high-altitude pine forests and meadows. The wildfire has also displaced several residents from rural communities with Spanish-colonial roots and high poverty rates while unleashing enormous ecological damage.
The Calf Canyon Fire was fueled by gusty and strong winds. It escaped the firefighter’s various attempts to contain it. On the 22nd of April 2022, The Calf Canyon Fire merged with The Hermits Peak Fire. Since then, the huge wildfire has damaged everything in its way. As of the 27th of May, the wildfire had burned over 312,000 acres and was about 47 percent contained.
After years of adopting a policy of putting out wildfires as quickly as possible, some state and federal officials have come to the idea of prescribed burns in recent years. Science and history have backed the concept of using intentional and modest controlled fires to clear vegetation and prevent future destruction from massive fires. Indigenous groups have used intentional fires for ages for the exact purpose.
However, severe heat waves and droughts, aggravated by climate change, have made it tough to use pre-planned fires as a preventive measure. Due to some bureaucratic obstacles and public fear that an intentional fire could escape, forest officials have prevented the use of prescribed fires. Public fear has become a reality in New Mexico.
Also Read: The Health Impacts Of Wildfire Pollution