Storms fan fires, create tornadic conditions

Farmers, rancher and rural communities continue to deal with impact of wildfires, high winds and tornadoes and on the bull’s-eye were New Mexico, Nebraska and Kansas.

New Mexico

The incident maps on show that the majority of the reported wildfires are in the western United States.

New Mexico has nearly a dozen fires listed on the map, with one fire—the Calf Canyon/Hermit’s Peak fire recently being combined. Together this fire has burned nearly 60,000 acres as of April 26 and has only reached 12% containment. The Calf Canyon fire began early afternoon April 19, approximately 18 miles northwest of Las Vegas, New Mexico, while the Hermit’s Peak began April 6 about 12 miles from Las Vegas.

In the April 26 updates online about the fire, officials believe the fire containment won’t be achieved until late July. Pine trees with heavy dead presence are fueling the fire. The live plants are still in dormancy and aren’t aiding suppression efforts. According to the report, fuels are fully available due to lack of winter precipitation and unseasonably warm, dry and windy conditions.

On April 25, elevated fuel moisture kept the fire behavior in check. Burnouts produced the most fire behavior with moderate backing and flanking. Weather forecasts are expecting light snow flurries and lower temperatures along the area, with lower temperatures. A slight chance of thunderstorms enters the forecast on April 27, and critical fire weather conditions make their return April 28, persisting through April 30.

According to the New Mexico governor’s office press release, April 25, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham was joined on a call with federal officials. Also on the call were Sen. Martin Heinrich, Sen. Ben Ray Luján, and Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernández. Also present were leaders from the White House, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Forest Service, the Department of Interior and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as well as New Mexico State Forester Laura McCarthy and New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Deputy Secretary Kelly Hamilton.

Lujan Grisham requested 25 additional federal support personnel to coordinate emergency response and recovery efforts. The governor and State Forester McCarthy emphasized the need for additional ground resources, particularly in advance of another severe wind event expected later in the week. McCarthy also underscored the need for a comprehensive interagency post-wildfire response, including addressing potential flooding caused by monsoons.

Four Fire Management Assistance Grants have been declared for New Mexico wildfires so far—federal officials also highlighted new funding for wildfire prevention made available by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Heinrich, Luján, and Leger Fernández reiterated their support for delivering additional federal resources and underscored the deeply personal ramifications of wildfires for historic communities throughout New Mexico that are most often without resources for recovery. The delegation members also emphasized the importance of ensuring that national and regional resources are appropriately available and disbursed throughout affected states and communities.

The governor and members of the congressional delegation jointly reiterated their agreement on the critical importance of prescribed burns and fuel reduction, but stressed the need to mitigate the risks of federal prescribed burns during the state’s spring windy season.

In a press release April 26, Lujan Grisham announced All Together NM Fund is collecting donations for New Mexicans impacted by wildfires burning across the state. The funds will be distributed to affected New Mexico communities in coordination with local organizations for emergency shelter, food and water distribution, and access to medical support.

“It’s no surprise that New Mexicans from around the state have been reaching out asking how to support their neighbors—that’s the spirit of our state and our compassion for our communities,” Gov. Lujan Grisham said.

According to the release, the program was launched by the governor in collaboration with the New Mexico Coalition of Community Foundations at the outset of the pandemic; the All Together NM Fund has awarded over $3 million in grants to food banks, food pantries, and small businesses across the state since March of 2020. The board of the Coalition of Community Foundations voted recently to approve using the fund to support New Mexico communities impacted by ongoing wildfires. Nearly $100,000 of existing funds will first go toward providing emergency shelter for New Mexicans who have been displaced by wildfires and evacuations.

Donations to the fund will be tax-deductible and can be made through the website, Gifts by check may be mailed to the Santa Fe Community Foundation, PO Box 1827, Santa Fe, NM 87504. Please note “All Together NM Fund” on the check.


Southern Nebraskans braced for several days and nights of evacuation as about 42,400 acres burned, according to Multi-Mission Aircraft, from Colorado, the entity that mapped the Road 702 fire.

The fire claimed the life of John P. Trumble, Arapahoe, who was overcome by smoke and fire. Trumble, 66, was a former fire chief in Cambridge, who was working as a spotter in Red Willow County. Fifteen firefighters were also injured while trying to control the wildfire.

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The Road 702 fire began on the tip of Kansas north of the Norcatur area, on April 22, and spread in a relatively narrow strip to the north up to the Republican River in Nebraska, rapidly covering approximately 28 miles, according to the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency. Multiple communities were evacuated along the path of the wildfire, according to a news release issued by Dan Dallas, incident commander of the Rocky Mountain Complex Team One.

Additional resources have arrived from several surrounding states to assist with suppression efforts on the Road 702 Fire, Dallas said. The arrival of these resources has allowed firefighters from local volunteer departments to get some rest and reset with family after what has already been several weeks high fire activity.

“Incident Management would like to acknowledge the great work that was done by first responders,” Dallas said. “It is gearing up to be a very busy fire season, and we are honored to be able to assist the local departments.”

Dallas offered an update on April 26 about two of the branches.

Branch I (the north and west side) encompasses the area from Cambridge west along the fire edge and south to Lebanon. The portion of the fire north of U.S. Highway 6, in Division A, has been contained. Firefighters will continue to patrol and mop up in this area and continue to strengthen containment lines. Along the west side of the fire, from US 6 south to near Silver Creek, firefighters continue to work on containment lines and cooling down hot spots within the timbered draws.

Heavy equipment is being used to remove trees that pose a hazard to firefighters in this area. From near Silver Creek south to the Branch I/III break at State Highway 89, the perimeter has been contained and firefighters will continue to patrol and mop up.

Branch III encompasses east and south perimeters of the fire from Cambridge south to Wilsonville and into Kansas. From the Branch I/III break at State Highway 89 south to Road 702, the fire perimeter has been contained. Good progress is being made on the portion of the fire that is in Kansas and containment on this section of the fire is expected soon. On the east side, the fire previously pushed out in several places creating fingers of unsecured fire edge. Direct and indirect fire line is being constructed to contain the fingers to lessen the risk of fire escaping containment lines. Firefighters will continue to patrol and mop up all portions of Branch III that have been contained.

There are currently no evacuations on the Road 702 Fire. For information on fire restrictions in Nebraska, visit

Tornadic activity

Northwest Kansas communities also dealt with severe weather as an EF-1 struck Sharon Springs in Wallace County on April 22 and another EF-1 struck near the Sheridan and Decatur County line that started late April 22 and continued into the early morning hours of April 23, according to the National Weather Service.

A damaging quasi-linear convective system tornado moved across Sharon Springs during the late evening and overnight hours of April 22. Maximum winds were found to be around 110 miles per hour, which made it just short ff an EF-2, the NWS said.

The worst damage was noted at the Kansas Department of Transportation station near U.S. Highway 40 where a cinder block building was toppled and a truck shed was completely destroyed, as well as the CHS facility where the office building had its roof completely torn off.

Throughout town, there were many tree limbs broken, tree trunks broken and trees uprooted. Many buildings and vehicles had broken windows, according to the NWS. Power poles were broken or downed throughout town. Other damage included several rolled trailers, including ag-related recreational vehicles and work trailers. Also, fences were blown down, shingles were off roofs and other wind-related damage was reported. The path was about 3 miles long with 350 yards of maximum width.

An EF-1 tornado touched down near the Sheridan-Decatur County line from the same front and it traveled about 2.74 miles and reached a maximum width of 125 yards.

An intense low-pressure system brought an extended period of high impact weather to the region throughout the day on April 22, the NWS reported. This system brought nearly every kind of hazardous weather to the region including numerous wind-driven wildfires, widespread damaging winds, blowing dust, severe thunderstorms with large hail and several tornadoes to the Tri-State area, the NWS said. The storm started in far eastern Colorado and as the storm intensified, winds just off the surface increased to over 70 miles per hour, resulting in widespread damaging wind gusts through the evening, the NWS reported.

Kylene Scott can be reached at 620-227-1804 or [email protected]. Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or [email protected].