Big Bend wildfire mostly contained

Big Bend wildfire mostly contained

16 May 2017

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USA – Fire crews have mostly isolated a wildfire at the center of Big Bend National Park, preventing the blaze from spreading upward from the brushy desert into the Chisos Mountains.

At least 60 percent of the perimeter of the roughly 1,000-acre fire had been contained as of Tuesday, National Park Service public information officer Jennette Jurado said. The fire broke out in the desert scrub of lower Juniper Canyon on Sunday, likely caused by a lightning strike.

“It seems like the acreage is holding but there is still some heat in the area,” Jurado said, adding that the park is still a red flag warning for fire risk.

While the so-called Crown Mountain Fire never directly threatened the popular Chisos Basin campground, lodge and visitors’ center, the area was closed to tourists so fire crews could use the basin as a staging area, Jurado said. It remained closed as of Tuesday afternoon, though other parts of the 1,200-square-mile park are still open.

“It was not because the basin was under immediate threat,” Jurado said. “That was a lot of the public fear, that the basin was immediately in peril.”

Big Bend personnel first responded to the blaze after reports of smoke drifting up from Juniper Canyon, Jurado said. They were later joined by federal fire crews from New Mexico, as well as Los Diablos, a firefighting crew made up of Mexican nationals who live in small villages across the Rio Grande from the park.

They were also joined by a helicopter crew that surveyed the blaze and dropped water from above, Jurado said.

Wildfire is a natural part of the ecosystem in Big Bend, helping to break down dead or diseased trees, brush and vegetation and enriching the soil, according to the NPS.

Fuels in Juniper Canyon had built up over decades, Jurado said. In her 11 years at the park, the area has never burned.

By midday Tuesday, crews were focused on extinguishing burning material around the fire’s perimeter, Jurado said. The process is known as “mop up”.

“This fire is definitely being managed as a resource benefit burn,” she said.

With an influx of manpower in the park, some firefighters were working on removing excess brush and vegetation in the Chisos Basin to reduce future fire risk, she said.

The High Chisos trails, the Outer Mountain Loop and the Pine and Juniper Canyon roads remained closed Tuesday.

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