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Last week, I attended a conference “Impacts and Lessons Learned from the Las Conchas Fire,” sponsored by New Mexico’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. NM EPSCoR is funded by the National Science Foundation, and this year their focus was to research the impacts of climate change on Northern New Mexico water resources.
The Las Conchas Fire broadened their focus to the environmental impacts of wildfire--with water and water quality as an important subtext. The Whitewater-Baldy Complex wildfire gave the meeting added urgency.
First, a very brief review of the Las Conchas fire: it started on June 26, 2011 when high winds toppled an aspen tree into a power line and sparks ignited the forest. During the first 14 hours, high winds moved the fire eastward and burned an acre of forest every 1.17 seconds.
The fire then burned over 156,000 acres and was finally contained after 1,200 personnel from around the country had battled the blaze for five weeks. Then, to add insult to injury, summer monsoons brought flash floods and landslides to burn-scarred and nearby areas.
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