May 18, 2022 - Black Fire and Bear Trap Fire in New Mexico

Black Fire in New Mexico

On May 16, 2022, strong winds continued to fan the ferocious fire season in New Mexico. On that date, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on board NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired a true-color image focused on fires located in the southwestern portion of the state.

A large plume of thick smoke billows from several active fronts on the rapidly expanding Black Fire, which ignited on May 13 in a wilderness area in the Gila National Forest. Due to high temperatures, critically low humidity of only 2-5 percent and gusty winds, by the evening of May 16 the fire had grown to 18,762 acres. Less than 24 hours later, in the early afternoon of May 17, the fire had torched 56,132 acres of timber and grassland. Firefighters expect the fire to continue extreme activity, including active flanking and single tree torching for the next several days, as above-normal temperatures and critically low relative humidity are forecast through the weekend into next week.

A very small plume of smoke rises from a patch of green to the north of the Black Fire, then blends with the large plume. This rises from the Bear Trap fire, which was first reported as a 100-acre fire on May 1 in Bear Trap Canyon of the San Mateo Mountains. As of May 17, this fire had burnt 15,215 acres and was 28 percent contained. The incident report published on InciWeb – Incident Information System website noted that fuels are extremely dry in all categories. Live fuel moisture remains at critical levels due to lack of seasonal precipitation. These conditions also apply to the Black Fire, and the entire region.

Image Facts
Satellite: Aqua
Date Acquired: 5/16/2022
Resolutions: 1km (212.4 KB), 500m (537.8 KB), 250m (314.6 KB)
Bands Used: 1,4,3
Image Credit: MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC