Fire Investigators Determine Cause of Calf Canyon Fire

Release Date: 

Contact(s): Julie Anne Overton

SANTA FE, NM – May 27, 2022 – Forest Service fire investigators have determined that the Calf Canyon Fire on the Pecos/Las Vegas Ranger District of the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) was caused by a pile burn holdover from January that remained dormant under the surface through three winter snow events before reemerging in April. A holdover fire, also called a sleeper fire, is a fire that remains dormant for a considerable time.  

On April 9, smoke was reported from the vicinity of the Gallinas Canyon Wildland Urban Interface pile burn, which had concluded on January 29, and crews responded. Crews lined the 1.5-acre Calf Canyon Fire and continued to monitor the fire over the next couple of days to ensure there were no signs of heat or flames near the edge. 

Ten days later, on April 19, the Calf Canyon Fire reignited and escaped containment lines. A wind event on April 22 caused significant fire spread, and the Calf Canyon Fire merged with the Hermits Peak Fire, which was caused by an escaped prescribed burn. 

“The Santa Fe National Forest is 100 percent focused on suppressing these fires with the support of the Type 1 incident management teams who are fully prepared to manage complex, all-risk situations,” SFNF Supervisor Debbie Cress said. “Our commitment is to manage the public lands entrusted to us by improving the forest’s resilience to the many stressors they are facing, including larger, hotter wildfires, historic levels of drought, rising temperatures, and insects and disease.”  

The cause of the Calf Canyon Fire was confirmed on the heels of Forest Service Chief Randy Moore’s announcement of a pause in the use of prescribed fire on National Forest System lands, a decision the agency announced on Friday, May 20, 2022.

This temporary pause will help the Forest Service understand what happened in relation to recent prescribed fire escapes in New Mexico and elsewhere. It will also ensure the prescribed burn program nationwide is anchored in the most contemporary science, policies, practices and decision-making processes, and that employees, partners and communities have the support they need to continue using this critical tool to confront the wildfire crisis. 

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