Updated April 7, 2021, 1 p.m. ET.
Wildfires of various sizes continue to burn across the Southwest as the region remains parched. Smoke from some of these fires may interfere with truckers as fire weather conditions persist.
The National Weather Service still has red-flag warnings posted Wednesday for most of New Mexico as well as southern Colorado. This means there’s an elevated/critical risk of new fires popping up, and gusty winds could spread new and existing fires out of control.
Most of the region has been under “extreme” or “exceptional” drought since last summer. These are the two worst categories issued by the U.S. Drought Monitor. Not only is the ground prime for wildfires, but the air is also bone dry, with relative humidity less than 15% in many places.
Southern Colorado and most of New Mexico are also under a fire weather watch for Thursday, as are portions of Utah, western Colorado and northeastern Colorado. This means elevated fire conditions are possible. Winds may be weaker Thursday, but the ground and air will still be parched.
Fires could easily start if people aren’t careful, and road closures are possible if fires get too close to highways and smoke reduces visibility. Truckers can help by not parking in grassy areas and avoiding dragging chains, which may produce sparks. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, 91% of wildfires in 2020 were caused by people, as opposed to lightning or other natural occurrences.
Areas most impacted by the fire threat sit between freight markets with high outbound volumes, according to the FreightWaves SONAR Headhaul Index (HAUL). This index measures the difference between outbound volume and inbound volume. In the map below, markets in blue indicate where demand for outbound loads is high and capacity is likely tight; markets in red indicate higher amounts of incoming loads and looser capacity. So truckers in the Southwest are generally long-haul drivers carrying freight between the Plains/Midwest and the West Coast.
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