The New Mexico Fire: How Big Is It?

Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire in New Mexico. Photo by Zelie Pollon

The fire called the Whitewater-Baldy Complex has covered 271,000 acres, or 423 square miles.

Whitewater-Baldy Map, June 8, 2012.

These numbers are thrown around until we’re numb. How big is that, anyway? When you see the satellite photos, it’s hard to put it in perspective. Perhaps some comparisons might help.

Rhode Island is about 1545 square miles, so it’s about 27%, or more than a quarter, the size of Rhode Island.

Rhode Island. Google Maps.

How about this: Los Angeles – the city alone, not the entire megalopolis – is 469 square miles, so it’s just a neighborhood or two larger than the Whitewater-Baldy Complex.

Map of Los Angeles. Google Maps.

Phoenix and Nashville are both 474 square miles, so it’s a bit smaller than both of those cities.

San Antonio is 407 square miles. So the fire is larger than all of San Antonio.

San Antonio. Google Maps.

The city of Chicago is 227 square miles in area. So this fire is almost twice the size of Chicago.


Washington, D.C. is 61.4 square miles. The Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire is, therefore, almost 7 times the size of D.C.


I say “almost”. But if you add the other half dozen fires that are now burning or – thank the gods for firefighters – nearly extinguished in New Mexico right now, I’m sure we can claim a full seven D.C’s worth of forest fire.

For international comparisons: this fire is the size of

1.23 Berlins

4.2 Edinburghs

8.8 Jerusalems

9.6 Vancouver BC’s

10.3 Parises, and

2,486 Vatican Cities

Perhaps this series of comparisons will help you understand how large this fire is; how much forest has been lost; and how much smoke is in our air, and why New Mexicans, when you see us, look a little shell-shocked, grief-stricken or nervous. This is what drought and climate change mean to us.


Honest to God Heroes


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