Updated: Tuesday, 12 Jun 2012, 8:03 PM MDT
Published : Tuesday, 12 Jun 2012, 8:03 PM MDT
RESERVE, N.M. (KRQE) - The largest fire in state history is now 37 percent contained.
The Whitewater Baldy Complex Fire in the Gila has burned 278,000 acres or 435 square miles. That's almost 2.5 times the size of Albuquerque.
More than 500 firefighters are working the fire, but it's not threatening any homes right now.
Meanwhile the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument and its visitors center are scheduled to reopen Thursday now that smoke levels from a the fire have decreased.
The monument north of Silver City has been closed since May 31 when smoke from the Whitewater fire invaded the area.
"After consultations with US Forest Staff and review of expected weather patterns, I am glad to be able to reopen this jewel of the National Park Service and hope that the rest of the summer will see a return to our more typical southwest New Mexico summer weather," monument Superintendent Steve Riley said in a statement released Tuesday. "While forecasts are for a later than usual start for the rainy season, I hope that we can begin to recover our visitation levels and have another year of breathtaking flowers on the surrounding Gila Wilderness."
Normal summer hours are 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. MDT for the visitor center and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. for the Cliff Dwellings with the last visitor out by 5 p.m.
A guided tour of the Cliff Dwellings will be offered at 1 p.m. each day as long as staffing permits, Riley said.
Earlier on Tuesday the fire-management team released this update on the previous day's progress in containing the Whitewater blaze:
During yesterday’s operational period, crews continued to rehabilitate fire lines and roads along the northern fire boundary from Devil’s Park on Road 626 to the union of Indian Creek and the Middle Fork of the Gila River.
Today’s efforts will include rehabilitation of dozer lines in cold areas of the fires. Road damage that occurred from increased fire traffic on the road system is being rehabilitated as needed.
The increased visible fire activity occurred in pockets of unburned brush in Sycamore and Brush Canyons. Visible fire and smoke behavior was short-lived.
Firefighters and air support were standing by to keep the fire in containment lines. Crews and air resources are standing by in the southern boundary where fire activity has been present.
Increased fire traffic will continue in the southern fire perimeter.
For your safety and safety of the fire crews please remember to avoid traveling on Sacaton Road and Moon Ranch Road.
The Southwest Type 1 Incident Command Team transfered command to a National Incident Management Organization (NIMO) Team yesterday at 6:00 PM. In addition to complex fire management, these teams have year-round “non-incident” duties in support of Fire and Aviation Management.
For more information about NIMO teams go to www.nifc.gov/nimo
For additional information regarding the post fire-flood assessment go to the Whitewater-
Baldy Complex BAER page at http://www.inciweb.org/incident/2900/.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: If you are planning to visit the Forest, Stage 1 Fire Restrictions are in effect. Additional closures are still are in effect in several areas; please go to the Gila National Forest website at www.fs.usda.gov/gila for current information or contact the Forest directly at 575-388-8201.
Fire Information: 575-533-6901, 575-533-6053 (Daily from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.)
Flickr (photos and maps): http://www.flickr.com/photos/gilaforest