More than 1,000 firefighters are battling a burn that’s consumed 241,701 acres in southwestern New Mexico, the largest wildfire in the state’s history. A lightning strike on May 16 ignited the blaze, which was only 18 percent contained as of today.
Lightning was also responsible for igniting the now 8,000-acre fire that started in eastern Nevada on Friday and spread to Utah. Two pilots died in a crash on Sunday while trying to drop flame retardant on the fire near the rugged Utah-Nevada border, reported CBS.
The crash of the P-2V heavy air tanker was followed by an emergency landing of another P-2V heavy air tanker at Minden-Tahoe Airport in western Nevada. “That crew had been helping with efforts to fight a wildfire near the airport, which is about 50 miles south of Reno,” CBS reported. The pilots flying near the airport were unable to lower all of their landing gear. After flying in circles for an additional 90 minutes to burn off fuel, they landed the plane on a cleared runway sustaining serious damage to the fuselage but without injury to the crew.
Firefighting crews had to battle a blaze set by firearms near Utah Lake over the weekend. The crews successfully contained the 1,680-acre fire, but this was the third blaze in the area, all started by target shooting activity.
Teresa Rigby, a fire prevention specialist with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, reportedly gave another reason besides the dry winter for the risk:
A 241,701-acre blaze burns across Whitewater-Baldy Complex, Gila National Forest in New Mexico, May 2012. (Kari Greer, US Forest Services, Corbis)
Fire whirls west of Utah Lake. (inciweb)