Summer Ring of Fire

The summer of 2012 will be remembered for excessive heat and drought and the ring of fires burning out of control for weeks.  NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center reported that fires in May were slightly below average in our service area, with the exception of large fires impacting Arizona and New Mexico.  NOAA’s June report is not out, but incident reports for May-June show nearly 50 unprescribed fires with a ring of fires in New Mexico, Arizona, Montana, and Colorado that consumed nearly 1 million acres.   

Las Conchas fire of 2011, courtesy of Santa Clara Pueblo / NRC Program Partner

  • Whitewater-Baldy Complex fire in New Mexico – Started on May 16 as two separate fires in the Gila National Forest. Ignited by lightning, these fires burned nearly 297,845 acres of coniferous forest, surpassing the Las Conchas fire in 2011 that was, until now, the largest fire in NM history. The nearby town of Mogollon was evacuated, and summer homes in Willow Creek were destroyed. Health alerts were issued as far away as Albuquerque and Santa Fe due to dense smoke impacting air quality conditions. This fire was last reported as 87% contained, but monsoon flooding is an imminent concern in the region.

  • Ash Creek Complex fire in Montana – Started on June 25 just 10 miles east of Lame Deer on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation. Caused by lightning, this fire is equal in size to Whitewater-Baldy and is now being managed as part of the Southeastern Montana Complex, with about 325,000 acres of grassland and timber burned, 16 homes destroyed, and livestock at risk. Residents of Ashland and nearby Home Creek were evacuated. National Relief Charities began providing disaster relief to the Northern Cheyenne within days after the fire started, thanks to a workaround route provided by their Emergency Management team. This complex is reported as 85-95% contained. 

  • Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado Springs – Started on June 23 and burned 18,247 acres. According to the Huffington Post and the regional wildfire agency, Waldo Canyon is the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history, forcing 32,000 residents to evacuate, taking about 350 homes, and taking 2 lives.  This fire is reported as 98% contained. US Forest Service investigators have determined the point of origin for this unprecedented fire but not the cause. Local law enforcement has posted a $50,000 reward for looting that occurred during the evacuation.

More about NRC’s Response to the Ash Creek Fire

Since the Ash Creek fire started, National Relief Charities made four disaster relief shipments to Program Partners on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, including two partners in Lame Deer and two in Ashland. We provided enough supplies for 4,455 people, some $86,000 worth of support.  We also ensured delivery of our regular shipments to 14 Northern Cheyenne partners who participate in a variety of NRC services year-round, including Food, Residential, Healthy Living, Community Event, Literacy, and Incentives services. These services are provided as part of our American Indian Relief Council and Sioux Nation Relief Fund programs. To date, the fires have not affected our Program Partners in the states of AZ, NM and CO.

NRC keeps a close watch on wildfires and other environmental emergencies in case the tribes we serve are affected.  For tribes wishing to learn more about our disaster relief service, please call 877-281-0808 in the Southwest or 866-556-2472 in the Plains.

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