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Posted at 01:45 PM ET, 07/01/2011

Las Conchas fire near Los Alamos largest in New Mexico history

New Mexico joins Arizona and Texas with record breaking wildfire seasons


A crew member aboard the International Space Station, flying at an altitude of approximately 235 statute miles on June 27, 2011, exposed this still photograph of a major fire in the Jemez Mountains of the Santa Fe National Forest in north-central New Mexico. The fire is just southwest of Los Alamos National Laboratories. (NASA)
The Las Conchas wildfire burning along the western edge of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico has grown to more than 103,800 acres (according to the Associated Press), making it the largest forest fire in New Mexico history.

This new record has been set less than a month after the Wallow fire in Arizona became the largest in state history, burning more than 470,000 acres. And firefighters have responded to nearly 1500 wildfires in Texas this year, which have burned a record 3.3 million acres. The old Texas record was 1.98 million acres in 2006 (records have been kept for 25 years) according to Amarillo.com.


Flames from the Las Conchas fire burn in the hills above Los Alamos National Laboratory, a nuclear facility, June 27, 2011. (Craig Fritz - Reuters)
The Las Conchas fire has forced the closure of the Los Alamos laboratory, one of the nation’s three nuclear-weapons labs. Firefighters may finally have the opportunity to contain the fire this weekend due to decreasing winds. Wunderground.com meteorologist Jeff Masters summarized the improving situation as such:

Today, winds will be lighter, 10 - 15 mph, and according to the NOAA Storm Prediction Center, these will not be critical fire conditions. Critical fire conditions are not expected in the Southwest U.S. over through July 8

Prior to the Las Conchas fire, the Dry Lakes fire of 2003 in southern New Mexico had been the biggest fire to occur in New Mexico. The Christian Science Monitor reports three of New Mexico’s largest forest fires on record have occurred in the last 10 years.

As I discussed in my blog post about the Wallow Fire in Arizona, increasing temperatures from climate warming and enhanced evaporation are projected to significantly increase the wildfire risk in the West in the coming decades, and are probably a factor in this year’s record-breaking fire season.

Here’s a video on the New Mexico blaze:

By  |  01:45 PM ET, 07/01/2011

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