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New Mexico, Idaho among states with most acres burned by wildfires in 2022

 The burn scar of the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon fire pictured Thursday, June 9, 2022.
Patrick Lohmann
Source NM
The burn scar of the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon fire pictured Thursday, June 9, 2022.

News brief

New Mexico and Idaho were among the five states with the most acres burned by wildfires in 2022.

With the devastating Calf Canyon/Hermit's Peak fire being the largest wildfire in state history, it’s no surprise New Mexico claimed the second spot with 859,906 acres burned, behind only Alaska, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Idaho ranked No. 5 with 436,733 acres.

The numbers don't include acres burned in prescribed fires. Doug Cram, a forest and fire specialist at New Mexico State University, says if they did, he’d like to see New Mexico at the top.

“Acres burned isn’t really the number we’re interested in, it’s the severity of the fire. If we’re No. 1 in low-severity acres, that would be great,” said Cram.

“It’s sort of a 'pay me now or pay me later' environment,” he said. “We’re going to have fire one way or the other – how would you like your forest to burn?”

Cram says the West needs to become “better burners” and weave prescribed fires into the culture more, so that when fires do happen, there’s less to burn and they're less severe.

“The culture in New Mexico in August is, ‘We expect to smell green chile roasting.’ And so this culture of burning is like — maybe we have a culture of pile burning in the winter and broadcast burning the spring,” Cram said, referring to the need for greater adoption and acceptance of prescribed fire.

Wildfires burned about 58,402 acres in Nevada, 45,732 acres in Colorado, 27,245 acres in Utah and 25,767 in Wyoming, according to an email from Carrie Bibao of the National Interagency Fire Center.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Copyright 2023 KUNM. To see more, visit KUNM.

Emma Gibson
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