Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire: Crews take advantage of mild weather, build containment lines

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MORA COUNTY, N.M. – Fire crews are celebrating small wins against the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire. 

Mild weather conditions have kept the fire from substantially growing for the past two days, but crews are still preparing for the worst. 

The fire is still 13 miles south of Angel Fire, but fire crews know another day of strong wind could bring the fire to their doorstep in just hours. That’s why more than 200 personnel are here — protecting as many homes as they can, and drawing a literal line in the ground before that happens.

Officials took KOB 4 behind the roadblock Wednesday to show us what that protection looks like. Crews have installed more than 50 portable sprinkler systems around homes in the evacuation zone. Meanwhile, helicopters are bringing loads of water to the fire line and just a few miles south of the village — bulldozers are carving a path in the ground to block the fire in case it moves farther north.

Village leaders say residents are feeling less anxious now that more resources have arrived. The village manager says folks here are used to wildfire threats, but admits this fire felt more dangerous. 

“Last week, when this thing moved as fast as it did, there was a lot of concern, and I still think that has people concerned because we’ve seen what the winds can do,” said Santos Martinez, Angel Fire village manager. “There’s still obviously some worry and anxiety, but I think having 4 or 5 days of good weather, and you can see air support going in, more ground crews coming in, I think that puts us in a better spot from where we were.” 

Firefighters and longtime residents say they’ve never seen things this dry.

The fire chief says there is a 97% probability of ignition. He says there are 30 firefighters on standby in case a new fire sparks.

Not everyone in the evacuation zone has left, though. 

Acreage — 301,971 acres (was 299,565)

Containment — 34% (was 26%)

Total Personnel — 1,958 (was 2,094)

Start Date —  Hermits Peak: April 6, 2022; Calf Canyon: April 19, 2022

Cause — Hermits Peak: Spot fires from a prescribed burn; Calf Canyon: Under investigation

Fuels — Heavy mixed conifer, ponderosa pine, brush and grass