Las Conchas fire near Los Alamos New Mexico
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Las Conchas fire near Los Alamos, New Mexico

July 13, 2011
Two weeks after a falling tree took down a power line, starting the largest fire in New Mexico history, the Las Conchas Fire continued to burn near Los Alamos, New Mexico. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Terra satellite captured this true-color image on July 9, 2011 as it passed over the region.

The red areas in this image are hotspots, areas where the instrument has detected temperatures higher than the background. In this case, these areas appear to be actively burning fires, as they are accompanied by gray smoke plumes. The smoke plumes are thickest near the hotspots, but thin as they spread to the northeast, blown by gusty winds.

The white clouds drifting over the region brought drizzling rain to the region on July 9, but also brought concerns of thunderstorms. Despite fire-cooling rains, thunderstorms are not a fire-fighter friend, as the lightening and heavy wind makes work difficult. Also, lightening can ignite new fires, while strong winds can fan flames, making wildfires spread.

Flash-flooding almost always follows large, intense, landscape fires such as the Las Conchas Fire, because burning destroys vegetation, permitting rain to run off the scorched land. According to local news reports, in some areas, such as at Santa Clara Pueblo, volunteers and residents have been filling sandbags to avoid flood damage that is likely to follow this huge burn.

As of July 11, Inciweb reported that 147,642 acres had already been consumed, mostly mixed conifer and pondersa pine, and that the fire had been 50% contained.

The National Weather Service predicts the potential for showers and heavy thunderstorms through July 15. A Hazardous Weather Outlook has been issued for July 11 and 12, due to potential for locally heavy rain, flash flooding and gusty winds between 25 and 50 mph, potentially accompanied by small hail. A Flash Flood warning has also been issued for the Los Alamos region, particularly in areas below burn scars.

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