Whitewater Fire in New Mexico merges with Baldy Fire to create 70,579-acre Whitewater-Baldy Complex, spreads to Gila National Forest

Wendy Lisney

Wendy Lisney

May 25, 2012 – U.S. Forest Service

SILVER CITY, New Mexico , May 24, 2012 (press release) – ICP is relocating from its current location to Reserve Fairgrounds today. Phone numbers for fire information will be changing and an updated number will be posted as soon as possible. In the interim please call the Reserve Ranger District at (575) 533-6231 for fire information.

The Whitewater Fire (detected on Wednesday, May 16) has merged with the Baldy Fire (detected on Wednesday, May 9), and is now being called the Whitewater-Baldy Complex. The fire has now come out of the Gila Wilderness and on to the Gila National Forest in the Willow Creek Subdivision and crossed State Road 159 at Silver Creek Divide and working its way into Mineral Creek.

Due to the fires extreme fire behavior, proximity to private land, and high winds forecasted, a Type 1 Fire Management Team has been ordered and will begin mobilizing to Reserve today.

The Whitewater-Baldy Complex is now 70,579 acres. It continues to burn in steep, rugged terrain of mixed conifer forest being driven by strong winds. The fire remains at 0% containment as firefighters are unable to directly suppress the fire due to extreme fire behavior and rough terrain. This extreme fire behavior has created large amounts of smoke which was visible in many communities in southeast New Mexico as well as some in eastern Arizona.

We are under Red Flag Warnings today which will continue through Saturday.

A voluntary-evacuation of the town of Mogollon is now in effect.

The fire did reach the Willow Creek Subdivision and is burning on both sides of the creek. Twelve homes and seven small outbuildings were confirmed destroyed late yesterday afternoon and additional structure damage assessment continues today. Many structures are still at risk due to extreme fire behavior and high fuel loading. Personnel from New Mexico State Forestry and U.S. Forest will be making personal contact with landowners within the next 24 hours.

Approximately 435 personnel are currently assigned to the fire.

Closure order 06-301 is being implemented and includes the following closures.

  • Whitewater Trail #207 is closed from the junction with Powerhouse Trail #810 to the junction with Crest Trail #182.
  • Holt Apache Trail #181 is closed from the junction with Deloche/Wynn Canyon Trail #179 to the east.
  • Crest Trail #182 is closed from Sandy Point trailhead to the junction with Holt Apache Trail #181
  • Bead Springs Trail #138 is closed
  • Iron Creek Trail #172 is closed
  • Red Stone is closed
  • Grouse Mountain Trail #781
In addition to the trail closures, the Bursum Road (State Road 159) is closed from the base of Whitewater Mesa approximately 13 miles east of Glenwood, New Mexico, to the junction with Forest System Road 28 and Forest Road 141. The road is also closed from the junction of Forest Road 59 to the west on Forest Road 142 to Snow Lake. Avoidance of all areas surrounding these closed areas is strongly recommended and caution is advised for the entire Gila Wilderness due to recent lightning and fire activity.

The Closure order is expanding to include all trails to the west of the Gila Cliff Dwellings. It will also include closure of the Snow Lake/Dipping Vat Campground. The Road closure has extended out to the junction of Forest Road 141 and Forest Road 28.

For more information visit the Gila National Forest website at http://fs.usda.gov/gila. You may also visit www.inciweb.org for maps and updates.

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