Blaze slows in areas where earlier prescribed fires reduced fuels
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Firefighters in New Mexico faced extreme fire conditions Saturday, with tongues of flame soaring 200 feet at times as the Whitewater-Baldy fire grew by more than 40,000 acres in 24 hours, from 80,000 acres to a footprint of more than 122,000 acres.
Fire experts said the blaze is slowing were previous prescribed fires reduced some of the available fuels.
Saturday afternoon the Gila National Forest closed the Catwalk National Recreation Trail until further notice. Please visit the Gila National Forest Website at www.fs.usda.gov/gila for more details. Smoke advisories are in effect, with more info online here.
About 600 firefighters are battling the blaze, burning in mixed Conifer, ponderosa Pine, pinyon-juniper woodlands and grass are within the fire perimeter, along with heavy concentrations of down and dead fuels.
The focus is still on protecting private property as well as public infrastructure, along with trying to establis indirect containment along the fire’s northern and western flanks. The fire is still threatening some residential structures and other developments, as well as some heritage sites in the area.
Winds are forecast to ease Sunday and change direction, blowing more west to east. Lighter winds will help firefighters, with more use of five available helicopters, but the air is also drying out, meaning that fuels will become more combustible.