The U.S. Forest Service miscalculations and mistakes caused a planned fire in New Mexico in April to spread until it eventually became the largest wildfire in the state's history.
"The devastating impact of this fire to the communities and livelihoods of those affected in New Mexico demanded this level of review to ensure we understand how this tragic event unfolded," U.S. Forest Chief Randy Moore wrote in the agency's report. "I cannot overstate how heartbreaking these impacts are on communities and individuals."
Although the review determined that the personnel involved in the Las Dispensas Prescribed Fire, "followed their approved prescribed fire plan," later analysis "revealed that the implementation was occurring under much drier conditions than were recognized. Persistent drought, limited overwinter precipitation, less than average snowpack, fine fuel accumulation — post mechanical treatment, and increased heavy fuel loading after fireline preparation all contributed to increasing the risk of fire escape."
The report notes among its findings that "Assigned personnel did not recognize and mitigate a high potential for escape," and "Personnel did not cease ignitions or suppress the prescribed fire after clear indications of high fire intensity and receptive fuels."
It also found that "There was an underestimation of fire potential leading up to the prescribed fire," and "Planning did not properly recognize challenges posed by the tree density, fuel loading and continuity outside the prescribed fire area."
Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández, D-N.M., said in a statement that the review revealed numerous errors in calculations made while planning for the prescribed burn, and that "Forest Service failures destroyed many rich and proud New Mexico communities. The rains may cause a second flood disaster. As the report notes, the Forest Service put numerous homes, communities, lives, historic sites, and watersheds at risk."
Theodore Bunker ✉
Theodore Bunker, a Newsmax writer, has more than a decade covering news, media, and politics.
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