Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fires in New Mexico
The Whitewater-Baldy Complex fires burning and rugged terrain in the Gila National Forest in western New Mexico have been generating a lot of smoke as seen in this image taken on May 30 at 1730 UTC (1:30 p.m. EDT) by NASA's Terra satellite. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument provides visible imagery and can detect the heat signatures of the fires. The heat from the fires is outlined in red in the images created, and the smoke from the fires appears light brown in color. The MODIS image shows 12 large hot-spots and smoke blowing to the southeast. The fire now covers 170,272 acres and is five percent contained. What's fueling the fire? Timber, mixed conifer, ponderosa pine, pinon/juniper and grass fuels are in the area as well as a lot of downed trees and dead vegetation.
The U.S. Forest Service noted on May 31, " During the day (today), smoke will be transported towards the southeast, but should remain above the surface, reducing any potential impacts at ground level." The direction of the smoke is expected to impact a number of communities and change direction over the weekend of June 2-3: "Transport winds are expected to continue to blow smoke south and east of the fire on Friday, with the most significant impacts more localized in communities down drainages from planned burn-out operations. Stronger and more westerly transport winds should blow smoke further and in a more easterly direction over the weekend."
The terrain is rugged and makes firefighting difficult. The U.S. Forest Service noted that the Whitewater-Baldy fire will continue to put up visible smoke for several weeks. The fire began on May 9 from a lightning strike.
Image: NASA Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team. Text: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Rob Gutro