The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite detected two large wildfires were burning in Arizona (left) and New Mexico (right) on the morning of May 24, 2004. When the Aqua satellite flew over later in the day, the fires had grown, sending out large plumes of smoke. In both images, the actively burning portions of the fires are outlined in red.
Near the Arizona-New Mexico state line, east of the Fort Apache and San Carlos Indian Reservations, the KP Fire was burning in the rugged, mountainous terrain of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. As of May 25, it was not threatening any structures. Over the weekend of May 22, firefighters continued “burn-out” operations along highway 191 to create fuel-free zones that prevent the fire from spreading.
To the east, the Peppin fire on El Capitan Mountain in New Mexico was started on May 15, 2004, and almost contained by the weekend of May 22. The fire roared back to life early in the week of May 24 due to dry conditions and strong winds. According to news reports, two dozen homes were evacuated in the area and portions of several roads had to be closed. On May 25, the National Interagency Fire Center estimated that more than 9,000 acres had been affected by the blaze.
Ironically, the fire is burning in the same forest where fire safety mascot “Smokey Bear” was rescued as a cub from a wildfire back in 1950. Despite Smokey’s catch phrase—“Only you can prevent forest fires”—the Peppin Fire was caused by lightning on May 15.