Historic Fire Raging In Gila
GILA NATIONAL FOREST, NM — The Whitewater-Baldy wildfire is now officially the largest wildifre in New Mexico's history. A lightning strike caused the fire that crews have had no luck containing May 16th and more than 170,000 acres have already burned. The fire is still 0% contained and officials believe it could burn well into July before crews get control of the blaze. Strong spring winds have fanned the flames, making containing the fire nearly impossible. When the fire becomes too extreme, crews will pull back and reconsider the situation before moving back in to continue working. Fortunately, despite the hellish conditions on the ground, injuries have been minor with 5 reports of things like sprained ankles, blisters and cuts. Weather is key to gaining control of fires. Dave Novlan of the National Weather Service specializes in long term forecasting. He says "indications are, getting rid of this cold water La Nina, and trending toward El Nino, perhaps we have decent chance of a normal monsoon this summer." In a "normal" year, showers become more likely by mid-June. A slow start of the monsoon could actually hurt firefighting efforts before it helps. In the first week or so of the monsoon as moisture increases, storms may develop, but there's not enough moisture to get a soaking rain. These storms that have minimal moisture content often produce dry lightning, which could trigger other fires in the area. Those on the frontline of the fire are hopeful for an earlier than normal and a wetter than normal monsoon. But until the rains arrive, crews will continue to work to contain the rapidly spreading fire as best they can.