Firefighters get a grip on the Black Fire, with containment jumping to nearly 50%

By: - June 6, 2022 5:10 pm

Containment on the Black Fire burning in Southern New Mexico spiked in the last day or so. “That jump in containment for firefighters, when they see that, it's a definite morale booster,” said spokesperson Evan Burks. (Public domain photo of a Super Scooper plane used to fight the Black Fire via the National Wildfire Coordinating Group)

A significant boost in containment of the second-largest wildfire raging in New Mexico ignited hope for the firefighters who have been battling this burn for nearly a month.

As of Tuesday, June 7, at 8 a.m.

The Black Fire has burned more than 292,000 acres.

It is 49% contained.

Containment of the Black Fire rose in the last 24 hours or so — a spike to almost 50% — with crews gaining full control over the northeast and northwest corners. 

“That jump in containment for firefighters, when they see that, it’s a definite morale booster,” said spokesperson Evan Burks. “We can see all that hard work that has been going on, it’s starting to pay off.”

The southern edges of the fire continue to present challenges, but the increased containment on the northern sectors allows more resources and personnel to be directed south.

Now they’re focusing on the southeast, west of Ted Turner’s Ladder Ranch, and the southwest, near Kingston, N.M., and the McKnight Cabin.

A large plume of smoke was created when the fire burned through heavy fuels near McKnight Cabin on Saturday, June 4. But Burks said the cabin, a staple of the popular hiking area, was protected. Officials predict minimal Black Fire growth around the McKnight Cabin area, he said.

Firefighters are conducting aerial ignitions, or dropping incendiary devices from aircraft to ignite fuels, to back fires downhill in a ridge near McKnight Rd., from the east fork of the Mimbres River to the Powderhorn Ridge Trail. Fires tend to burn uphill, especially when pushed by wind, Burks said, whereas a fire that burns downhill will do so more slowly, which is the goal here. Eventually, the fire will back down to indirect lines that have been constructed.

“That backing fire, it’s going to be a whole lot less intense than a fire that’s making a run up a mountain,” Burks said.

Firefighters have been able to engage in direct tactics to physically create lines, or natural fire barriers, at the fire edges in areas of the Seco Creek and Las Animas drainages. They have successfully pushed areas of the fire east into grassier terrains and out of locations with steep canyons and timber fuels that intensify burning. Indirect tactics are still being used to create lines as well, though further from the fire’s edge, including contingency lines that are back-up lines further from the fire edges and primary lines.

A temporary campsite for firefighters and support personnel has been established in Kingston, which increased traffic along Highway 152. Communities in Kingston and Hillsborough can expect to see more firefighter presence and traffic in the next few days.

Closures have expanded, now including the following campgrounds: Upper Black Canyon, Lower Black Canyon, Rocky Canyon, Lower Gallinas, Upper Gallinas, Railroad Canyon, Iron Creek and Kingston.

A community meeting about the wildfire will be held tonight at 6 p.m. at Camp Thunderbird.

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Megan Gleason
Megan Gleason

Megan Gleason is a journalist based in Albuquerque. She graduated from the University of New Mexico, where she served as the editor-in-chief of the Daily Lobo. Other work has appeared under the New Mexico Press Association as well as in the Independent, Gallup Sun and Silver City Daily Press.