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Fri June 21, 2013
Silver Fire Torches Grazing Areas
UPDATE 7p: A furious wildfire torching through the mountains of southern New Mexico's Gila National Forest has grown to 127 square miles.
Fire officials say the Silver Fire continued to burn Tuesday to the north and west as crews battled the blaze amid dry and breezy conditions.
The fire is still about 5 miles west of the nearest community, but the flames have already burned through entire grazing areas and some ranches. That has left ranchers in this drought-stricken corner of the state nowhere to turn to find feed for their cattle.
State agriculture officials say the combination of drought and fire has forced some ranchers to ship what remaining cattle they have to other states.
In all, wildfires have burned more than 192 square miles around New Mexico over the last month.
UPDATE 6/25 8a: A furious wildfire torching through the mountains of southern New Mexico's Gila National Forest has grown to 125 square miles and is expected to keep expanding.
Fire officials said late Monday that the Silver Fire continued to burn to the north and west as crews battled the raging blaze amid dry and breezy conditions.
Officials say the fire remains 20 percent contained, mainly in the south toward the bottom of the inferno.
Meanwhile, Gila National Forest officials said that other parts of the park would remain open for the July 4th holiday.
While the Silver Fire burns in the Black Range Mountains and the Aldo Leopold Wilderness on the southeastern part of the forest, the remainder of the 3.3 million acres of forest land would be open to the public.
UPDATE 6/24 5p: A nearly 119-square-mile wildfire is continuing to burn in southern New Mexico's Gila National Forest, and will likely grow even more throughout the week.
Officials say the raging Silver Fire gained strength over the weekend due to high winds and hot, dry weather. Those conditions are expected to remain over the next few days.
The blaze is especially expanding to the north, into Animas Canyon and the Aldo Leopold Wilderness, which is closed to the public.
Close to 500 firefighters continue to battle the massive blaze that is still 20-percent contained.
No structures have been lost.
Crews have begun fuels reduction around the community of Cooney and started examining Hermosa where a few residents live on ranches. Officials said those communities are not directly threatened.
UPDATE 6/24 6a: Hot and dry winds drove the Silver Fire in southern New Mexico to grow by an additional 20 square miles.
The wildfire burning in extremely rugged terrain within the Gila National Forest has scorched 109 square miles since being sparked by lightning on June 7.
It grew by 20 square miles from Saturday to Sunday morning.
Fire information officer Larry Helmerick says that despite the fire's growth, no homes are threatened or remain evacuated.
Twenty-six people in the tiny historic mining town of Kingston were allowed to return home Thursday after they were forced to evacuate for 10 days.
Helmerick says lower temperatures and monsoons are needed to help fight the fire, but that hot and dry conditions are expected Sunday and into early next week.
UPDATE 6/21 2p: An erratic wildfire in southern New Mexico's Gila National Forest that is spilling smoke columns 30,000 feet high has grown to nearly 70 square miles.
Officials said Friday that the Silver Fire, which is 20 percent contained, expanded due to drier conditions and low humidity.
The area around the blaze is under a red flag warning. Those are issued to warn fire managers about critical weather and fuel moisture conditions that could lead to dramatic increases in wildfire activity.
Crews are scheduled Friday to construct indirect fire line from East Yates Canyon to McKnight Cabin in the northwest part of the blaze and along the Hermosa Trail in the northeast part.
Residents of Kingston were allowed to return home Thursday after they were forced to evacuate for 10 days.
An evacuation order for a historical mining town near a wildfire in southern New Mexico's Gila National Forest was lifted Thursday as the growing blaze jumped to 57 square miles, officials said.
Incident Commander Matt Reidy announced that Kingston residents with special entry permits will be allowed to return to the town but cautioned that fire danger remained for the area.
The residents have been very understanding and their cooperation was appreciated during this trying time period," said Reidy. "We understand residents have been away from their homes and are very anxious to return home."
However, officials said he Kingston area will remain closed to everyone except residents until further notice. People were evacuated last week after the lightning-caused fire moved closer to the town.
Fire officials said the blaze was 20 percent contained as of Thursday night. They said the inferno grew just as firefighters finished setting up protections around a nearby historic mining town. The fire's growth was blamed on persistent hot and dry weather that caused it to expand another 10 square miles overnight.
Mop up continued near Kingston while indirect dozer and hand line construction was completed on the east flank. A line was also completed on the west side of the blaze in East Quaking Aspen Canyon and Rabb Park, according to fire officials.
The wildfire is expected to burn more acreage throughout the week, spilling smoke into nearby towns.
More than 500 firefighters are battling the blaze.
There will be a public meeting about the fire at 6 p.m. at the Round Up Lodge in San Lorenzo.