Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire Grows to 170,272 Acres


Raging fire is visible from Forest Road 141. Photo by Steven Meister, Mt. Tayloyr Hotshots. Courtesy/USFS Gila National Forest

The Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire has grown to 170,272 acres, which makes it the largest fire in New Mexico history. Last summer’s Las Conchas fire burned 156,293 acres.

The fire has continued to spread in all directions as it remains active on more than 95 percent of the perimeter.

Firefighters are working on the line around the fire to provide the buffer needed to minimize the spread.

Burnout operations on the north side of the fire along Forest Road 141 have cooled off enough to allow crews to mop up hot spots. 

Crews continued to clear vegetation from previous burnout operations on the northern and western flanks to create a larger fire break around the fire’s edge.

Structure protection continues in Mogollon, Willow Creek and near other ranches and homes.

The fire continued to be very active in pockets; we have seen extreme fire behavior with running, torching and spotting.

Severe fire and weather has been observed for seven of the last eight days. Weather conditions remain dry, hot and unstable.

Communities surrounding the fire have continued to experience smoke.

Some areas may experience periods of air quality which are unhealthy for sensitive groups (those with asthma, lung or heart disease, children, older adults and recent science indicates pregnant women.)

Low lying areas close to ongoing fire activity may experience periods with visibility of 1.5-2.5 miles, which is indicative of air that is unhealthy for all groups.

If heavy smoke is present, then outdoor activities should be minimized where possible and caution observed when driving in reduced visibility.

Closures are in effect in several areas; visit www.fs.usda.gov/gila for current information, or contact the Forest directly at 575-533-6232.

  • Incident Name: Whitewater-Baldy Complex
  • Start Date: May 16
  • Start Location: Gila Wilderness on the Gila National Forest
  • Cause of Fire: Lightning
  • Area Vegetation: Mixed conifer, Ponderosa pine, etc.
  • Acres Burned: 170,272
  • Containment: 0 percent
  • Ownership(s): USDA Forest Service/private
  • Structures Threatened: yes
  • Structures Burned: 12 homes and 13 outbuildings
  • Evacuations: Communities of Willow Creek and Mogollon

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