“For the first time in a long time, New Mexico looks like what we’ve seen play out on the West Coast.
This is going to happen all around the state and we have to be prepared.”
— Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, in the days after the McBride Fire in Ruidoso, April 2022

The future arrived sooner than expected with a historic wildfire season that burned 906,685 acres, destroyed some 1,500 homes and displaced thousands of New Mexico residents. It provided a glimpse into a devastating future, where more than a century of poor forest management has collided with a rapidly warming climate. In the decades to come, scientists expect wildfire in New Mexico to become ever more frequent and severe, consuming wildland communities and rapidly converting much of the state’s beloved forest to open shrubland.

Here, Searchlight explores what’s at risk and what can be done to stave off the worst impacts. Inaction is no longer an option.

Crowning fury

Anger toward the Forest Service has been smoldering for a century. Raging wildfires brought it roaring to life.

Redlined and reeling

Uninsured homes leave New Mexicans vulnerable in areas hit by wildfires

After the fire

Residents are left on their own to face major flooding

Fire sale

As the wildfire raged, New Mexicans got alarming cash offers for their property in the burn zone. Was it ‘disaster investing’?

Back to school in the fire zone

Classes are starting in northern New Mexico, where a wildfire left families without basics like running water. Can students learn after so much loss?

The age of consequence: Wildfires in New Mexico

Increasingly catastrophic fires threaten to decimate forests and communities in coming years. What can be done about it?

The fire and flood next time

Future wildfires and floods could destroy water systems and devastate thousands of New Mexicans. Can they be protected?

Seeds of healing

Mora schoolchildren affected by this year’s wildfire go to the forest to learn about resilience.