A report was issued on the specific fire that led to the Hermets fire

The drugs stipulated the shooting, at 1:07 p.m. April 6th,
Las Dispensas announced the shooting, at 1:07 p.m. April 6, 2022. USFS photo.

An 80-page (4.7 MB) report issued by the US Forest Service concluded that the management of the specific fire that survived and merged with another described fleeing fire to become the largest wildfire in New Mexico’s recorded history, generally followed the approved prescribed fire plan for most, but not all, parameters . People on the ground felt they were close to or within the limits of prescriptions, but fuel moisture was lower than was realized and the increased heavy fuel loading after setting up the fire line contributed to the increased risk of fire escape.

The described fire was over the Santa Fe National Forest in northern New Mexico east of Santa Fe in a unit within the Gallinas Specific Fire Project area. The first burning activity in early October of 2017 was igniting the piles of debris left after forest thinning projects. Less snow than expected allowed the fire to spread away from the piles over the next three months. In late December they began to put out the fire, and on January 18, 2018 it turned into a wildfire. Facilitated learning analysis found that “communication” and “preparedness for specific fire and hazard” were common themes.

In continuation to this large, multi-unit project, on April 6, 2021 at 11:34 a.m., firefighters lit a pilot fire on the selected Las Dispensas fire, expected to be 150 acres. At 12:34 PM, the test was deemed successful and the project started.

Las Dispensas shooting test set for April 6, 2022 . shooting
Las Dispensas test firing set for April 6, 2022 shooting. USFS photo.

The first small spot fire occurred at 1:35, and it was brought under control. At 2:26 a quarter-acre fire was lit.

Wireless communication with some individuals has been found to be a problem. It later emerged that Bravo Holding was using a separate “crew network” and was not monitoring the planned frequency.

The ignition stopped several times as the spot fires were put out, but by about 4 p.m. when the relative humidity dropped to 10 percent, there were at least a dozen spots. At 4:06 the incineration chief called for emergency resources and at 4:15 when groups of trees began to light the fires, all resources were withdrawn from the fire due to the increased intensity of the fire. At 4:25 Dispatch reported that emergency resources were physically located in Taos, New Mexico at the top of the fire (an annual training exercise). Taos is about 70 miles from the set fire.

At 4:38, Dispatch informed the agency’s director that Burn Boss and the fire department official had recommended declaring a wildfire — about four hours after the initial ignition began. The director of the agency issued a bushfire announcement and at 4:50 the incident was named after the forest fires at the height of the Hermes.

fire hermit rush
Peak of the Hermits Fire, April 8, 2022. USFS Photo.

On April 22, the height of the Hermits Fire merged with the Calf Canyon Fire, and another escaped from a specific fire in the Santa Fe National Forest. As of June 22, the fire has burned more than 341,000 acres.


The airtime burn recipe requires that the relative humidity be between 12 and 60 percent. A spot weather forecast released by the National Weather Service at 8:53 a.m. on April 6 forecast minimum relative humidity between 9 and 13 percent, and westerly winds of 10 to 15 mph at 25 and 54 to 58 degrees.

During the project on April 6, weather conditions were measured by monitoring once an hour with a portable Kestrel instrument. With this device, the readings looked within prescription standards except for notes at 4 p.m. when they showed relative humidity as low as 10 percent.

From the report:

“With respect to temperature (dry bulb and wet bulb) and relative humidity, observational observations showed a cooler and wetter bias when compared with other observations of weather and fire behavior at the site. Specifically, the relative humidity readings from Kestrel differed from what they should have been. Relative humidity values ​​if calculated using the National Wildfire Coordination Group standard tables for this elevation and dry bulb and wet bulb observations. The Kestrel-recorded relative humidity values ​​provided values ​​approximately 10 percent greater than those calculated.”

The recalculated RH at 4 p.m. was actually 6 percent, not 10 as reported by Kestrel. One firing boss also took readings and used the standard NWCG tables, which were identical to the recalculated values ​​from Kestrel’s Lookout.

To sum up the weather, forecasts put relative humidity at 9 to 13 percent, possibly below the minimum set of 12 percent, but it actually dropped to 6 percent, well below prescription.


The fine and heavy fuel loading increased in the years following the development of the specific fire plan, as a result of a combination of opening the canopy of lightening (soft fuel) and fireline preparation (heavy fuel). This contributed to an increase in fire intensity, burning, profuse spotting, and resistance to control.

The moisture of the foliar fuel was low and contributed to the transition from the surface of the fire to the crown. Fuel moisture samples taken from March 16 to April 3 showed a significant downward trend that contributed to the transition from surface to crown fire and increased speckle potential. Foliar moisture for sampling was included in the specific firefighting plan but was not part of the prescription.

Report conclusions, findings and lessons learned

  • There was no nearby Remote Automated Weather Station (RAWS) in the work order representing conditions at the burn site. If data is available, it can improve situational awareness.
  • The burn area thinning project has opened up the canopy in some areas, letting in more sunlight resulting in lower fuel moisture. Heavy ground fuel resulting from the construction of a fire line for the incineration project is added to the fuel loading. This contributed to an increase in the intensity of fire, burning, staining, and a higher resistance to control.
  • Low live fuel moisture facilitated the transition from surface fire to incineration and detection outside the unit boundary.
  • The described fire plan stated that the Energy Release Component (ERC), which is an indicator of the potential intensity of a fire, should be monitored, but did not specify how the element should be used. On the specific fire date it was 37, well above the average for the date which was 23. The highest rate ever recorded on that date was 41. Higher numbers indicate a greater fire intensity.
  • The minimum required of tenure and contingency resources was underestimated. After several spot fires occurred, Burn Boss called for emergency resources, but they were 70 miles away.
  • Clear recognition and recognition of long-term drought and climate factors versus short-term weather events could have led to a better awareness of the conditions surrounding the fire environment and could have led to more positive outcomes.
  • Test firing began in an area of ​​the unit that was not representative of the rest of the unit. On several occasions, prior to igniting the burn and after considering the release and acceptance of the test, some individuals felt that dry conditions would lead to difficult combustion conditions and increased risks, but they accepted the task.
  • Consider requesting overheads, such as Firing Boss, Holding Boss, and other jobs, to document agreement support with Test Fire or a Go/No-Go decision.
  • Administrative boundaries limited the selection of potential lines of control. The specific firefighting unit designation follows boundary lines from private property and other land designations, such as wilderness, and not necessarily beneficial fuel or terrain changes.
  • Use existing authority in the “Wyden Amendment” that allows federal land administrators to spend money to conduct remediations on adjacent non-federal lands to improve the viability and utilization of fish, wildlife and other vital resources.
  • Firefighters in the area have noticed pressure to “get the job done,” which could take the risk even more.
  • Records show that Fire Burn Boss Type 2 (RXB2) described has been performed as a fully qualified RXB2 at least 12 times since 2015.
  • Invest in education opportunities for continuing learning in the science and technology of fire behavior and the fire environment. Consider workshops designed for specific firefighting practitioners that address today’s challenges related to environmental and social conditions.
  • Described fire programs and projects should invest in staffing, training, planning, and other supporting resources in proportion to the priority and complexity of the identified fire projects.
  • Consider incident management teams when implementing specific complex fire projects.
  • Increased support for incumbent heads by activating planning department functions when complexity requires additional capacity.
  • Establish an interagency training facility, such as the National Interagency Prescribed Fire Training Center, that will be located in the western United States and focus on the additional complexities associated with western fuel processors.
  • Learn from indigenous communities about cultural land management practices.
  • Invest in education opportunities for continuing learning in the science and technology of fire behavior and the fire environment. Consider workshops designed for specific firefighting practitioners that address today’s challenges related to environmental and social conditions.

This is from the report

“We are asking them to make up for long overdue proactive restoration work while allowing barely time to recover from the previously taxing wildland fire response and prepare to respond again. We are asking them to bring the fire process back into ecosystems that have evolved to burn, but many are now Predisposed to extreme fire behavior due to our decisions to exclude or suppress fires in these areas.

“To achieve this level and frequency of fire prescribed landscapes, we must ensure that practitioners have access to the best science, technology and tools, and are confident and practice their use. We need an approach to planning and executing specific fires that is as robust as incident management teams respond to fires. Forests “.

Ten year plan

A 10-year plan released in January by the Forest Service for other fire and fuel projects calls for a doubling of the number of treated acres on National Forest System land in the West and other federal, state, tribal, and private lands in the West, increasing from about 2.5 million acres annually to 7.5 million acres.

we took

“Area firefighters have felt pressure to ‘get the job done’, which could lead to more risk,” the report said.

If they feel the pressure now, how will they feel when the number of treated acres needs to be increased significantly? Will there be a corresponding escalation in Burn Bosses, holding chiefs, full-time designated fire planners, NEPA compliance capacity, crews, and weather windows?

Peak Hermets - Calf Canyon Fire June 14, 2022
Peak Hermets – Calf Canyon Fire, June 14, 2022. USFS.

author: Bill Jabert

After working full-time in prairie fires for 33 years, he continues to learn, striving to be a student of wildfire. Looking at all of Bill Gabert’s posts

Articles You Might Like

Share This Article