ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A month and a half into the monsoon and New Mexico is just now seeing its first big storms, allowing forest officials to breathe a sigh of relief.
Early summer is the scariest and most dangerous part of the year for firefighters. Now that it looks like the monsoon is officially here, they can finally start to scale back.
The pitter-patter of rain provides little relief, but downpours of rain are what forest officials have been waiting for.
“When the monsoonal weather patterns set up everyone breathes a sigh of relief,” said Julie Ann Overton with the Santa Fe National Forest.
The start of monsoons mark the end of the most dangerous part of the fire season. The Santa Fe National Forest says the worst of 2017 so far was the Cajete Fire near Los Alamos, which burned 1,300 acres and threatened 300 homes.
Overall though, Overton says forest officials have actually been pretty lucky.
“Just in the Santa Fe National Forest, there have been 40 fires that burned more than 1,500 acres. Of those 40 fires, 23 of them were human caused and 17 were caused by lightning,” she said. “Statewide it’s been closer to 90,000 acres.”
Those 90,000 acres burned from 188 fires — 88 human caused and 100 caused by lightning. Yet, Overton says all those numbers are “pretty low,” considering it’s been years since New Mexico’s had a “bad” fire season.
The last big year was in 2012 when the Whitewater-Baldy Fire in the Gila burned almost 300,000 acres, and the Little Bear Fire near Ruidoso burned more than 250 homes.
This year, forest officials say the state is in the clear, but that doesn’t mean their work is done.
“We always keep an eye on things,” Overton said.
Of course, fires will still pop up and you’ll likely see them burning for a little longer. Overton says this time of year when the ground is damp, fire fighters will let fires burn and scorch the dry brush along the ground.
Campfires are always a concern for the Forest Service. They say to bring at least five gallons of water with you so you can properly put a campfire out.