As national forests across northern New Mexico prepare to close to the public because of extreme fire danger, officials said Wednesday morning that the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak wildfire has grown to 301,971 acres and is 34% contained.
More than 1,950 personnel are battling the largest fire in state history.
Jayson Coil, an operations section chief for the fire’s west zone, said crews have made “excellent progress” on the blaze’s eastern perimeter.
Now the team is focused on building fire breaks to the west and north of the fire.
The crew is removing dead trees and brush in the fire’s path and thinning out forested areas.
“That reduces the likelihood that we’d get a crown fire, where fire moves through the tops of the trees independent of a ground fire,” Coil said.
Coil said the crews understand the importance of shielding homes and recreational areas like Sipapu Ski Resort from the fire.
“Protecting a ski resort is not the same as protecting a home,” Coil said. “Ski resorts that don’t have trees on their runs, especially in the Southwest, usually stop being ski resorts. They need that shading to keep the snow.”
Thousands of residents are displaced across four counties. The Governor’s office estimates that the fire has destroyed at least 1,000 structures.