BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK, Texas (News release) – The South Rim Fire has continued to burn through mixed Pinyon-Juniper-Oak woodlands and grass of the high Chisos Mountains, creating plumes of smoke visible throughout the park each afternoon.
By late Saturday, about 2/3 of the fire’s perimeter had stagnated after moving into rocky terrain and cliff edges. It is also slowly backing down Boot Canyon.
By 4:00 pm Saturday, fire had crept to the summit ridge of Emory Peak and was visible from the Chisos Basin developed area 1.5 miles away and 1500-2000 feet lower in elevation. Out of an abundance of caution, the National Park Service made the decision to close the Chisos Basin Campground and Chisos Mountains Lodge by sunset.
Park Superintendent Bob Krumenaker noted, “Visitors and Chisos Mountains Lodge personnel have been extremely cooperative and we were able to clear the Basin faster and more smoothly than we expected. We’re very appreciative. Thanks also to the many NPS staff and volunteers who have been directing traffic and assisting both visitor and the fire team.”
For visitor safety and to provide room for park fire teams to focus on the incident, the Chisos Mountains area of the park, including the road, campground, lodge, and trails will remain closed until further notice. This includes the popular Window and Lost Mine Trails. Firefighters stayed with the fire last night. Activity quieted down significantly, and the fire did not enter the Chisos Basin overnight.
Today, crews will be working on containment along the fire’s slowing edges in the High Chisos and setting up structural protection in the Basin developed area. Structural fire engines will be staged in the Basin area.
Sixty nine firefighting personnel, including the Diablos and Mount Taylor Hotshots, are currently fighting the fire at this time.
Additional resources will be arriving today, including a helicopter team to provide enhanced recon in the rugged terrain. Weather forecasts for today call for warmer and drier conditions, which could result in increased fire activity and spread.
The fire will no doubt grow beyond yesterday’s 600 acre estimate. Visitors should expect to see smoke, especially during the heat of the afternoon.
Initial reports on the current burned areas indicate that much of the fire was low to moderate intensity, which will be beneficial to the long-term health of the Chisos “sky island” ecosystem.
The remote nature of the fire creates challenges both for fire management and even getting accurate estimates of fire size and conditions.
The National Park Service will continue to post regular updates and images through social media as they become available.