A so-called 'megafire' is raging in New Mexico. Called the Whitewater-Baldy Fire Complex, it's the product of two smaller blazes merging, and it's only 20% contained. It has torched 345 square miles of Gila national forest, and is now officially the biggest wildfire in the state's history. And that's a NASA satellite image of what it looks like from space.
That's 227,000 acres up in smoke. Which is a few ten thousand acres more than the previous record-holding conflagration—a record set just last year, when the Las Conchas fire burned down 156,000 acres. Which means, of course, that New Mexico has been hit with two record-breaking fires in just about a year's time.New Mexico is currently in the midst of a drought, which has left the region arid and more susceptible to fires.
And you could probably guess what I'm going to write next, but I'm going to do it anyways: Climate change is exacerbating such conditions. It's drying out an already dry region for longer periods time, meaning wildfires like this one will likely continue to become more frequent.
A couple other notable asides regarding the record blaze: Congress has gutted funding for preventing and fighting forest fires by $512 million since 2010. And if there's a silver lining here, it's that the wildfire will test some new forest management practices intended to reduce the severity of such fires. Fingers crossed—we're going to need all the help we can get.