Forest Service Error Led To Devastating Wildfire

( )- According to the US Forest Service, its own “miscalculations and mistakes” caused a planned fire in New Mexico in April to grow out of control leading to the largest wildfire in the state’s history.

In a report released this week, US Forest Chief Randy Moore said the “devastating impact” of the wildfire on the communities and livelihoods in New Mexico “demanded this level of review to ensure we understand how this tragic event unfolded.

While a review of the wildfire concluded that the personnel involved in the Las Dispensas Prescribed Fire did follow the approved plan, the analysis revealed that the implementation of the plan occurred when conditions were significantly drier than the Forest Service realized.

According to the report, the dry conditions were caused by persistent drought and limited precipitation during the winter which led to less than average snowpack. Compounding the problem was “fine fuel accumulation” along with “post mechanical treatment and increased heavy fuel loading after fireline preparation.” All of this contributed to an increased risk that the agency’s planned fire would “escape.”

The Forest Service personnel failed to “recognize and mitigate a high potential for escape,” the report noted. It also found that after there were “clear indications of high fire intensity and receptive fuels” and agency personnel failed to “cease ignitions” or attempt to “suppress the prescribed fire.”

The US Forest Service concluded that the agency personnel underestimated the fire potential ahead of the prescribed fire. It also found that the planning of the prescribed burn failed to “properly recognize challenges posed by tree density, fuel loading and continuity” in the area outside of the prescribed fire.

In a statement in response to the Forest Service report, New Mexico Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernández said due to the numerous errors made in planning the prescribed fire, the US Forest Service “destroyed many rich and proud New Mexico communities.”

April’s wildfire caused by the Forest Service’s prescribed fire is still burning.

As of Tuesday, the fire had charred over 533 square miles.