As of Wednesday, the Bear Trap Fire – 25 miles southwest of Magdalena – has grown to 7,249 acres and is zero percent contained. Responding to the blaze include firefighters from the Forest Service, BLM, BIA, and state forestry.
Socorro County and Magdalena as well as private contractors are also on the scene. Resources include 10-Type 6 Engines, 6-Type 2 Handcrew, 2-Type 2 and 1-Type 3 Helicopters, overhead, air tankers, Water tenders and retardant drops.
The fire was first reported Sunday, May 1. On the next day, May 2, Osiris Navarro and Michal Goila from Tumbleweeds Diner in Magdalena got a call from fire officials asking if they would rustle up some meals for the arriving firefighters.
“I think they had originally a caterer from Albuquerque, but they might have backed out, so they asked us on a Monday night if we could do lunches the next day, dinner that night, and then lunches again on Wednesday,” she said. “So, we did like three meals.”
She gave credit to Magdalena Cafe, Evett’s and Kelly’s Place who also pitched in by providing needed meals.
“It was a community effort, you could say,” Navarro said. “We were going to do things from out-of-pocket, but the fire operation was able to get the funding for it.”
She said the first meal was for 150 lunches and 175 dinners, and then another 175 lunches the following day.
“It was just me and my husband basically, but we did have volunteers to help pack,” Navarro said.
A big job to be certain, but the couple had previous experience in large orders.
“We made it work, but we previously had a catering company in Seattle before moving to Magdalena, so we kind of knew what we were doing. We tried to make them something they would look forward to.”
The restaurant had to temporarily close for local diners for a short period.
Navarro believes they now have a permanent caterer based closer to the scene since the crew has grown to 400-500.
“I think they’re getting catering from somewhere in Montana,” she said. “Caterers that come in like the big box trucks, like the refrigerated trucks.”
Navarro said they still are providing meals for some firefighters who come through town driving back and forth to the fire location.
Road closures issued last week for critical areas adjacent to the fire have not changed. The Forest Road closures include access to Mt. Whittington Lookout and Grassy Lookout as well as Beartrap Campground and Hughes Mill Campground. They are in effect until Sept. 1, unless rescinded earlier.
On the western side of the fire, Concho Hills Guest Ranch on Highway 52 is in no immediate danger.
“Fortunate for us, but maybe not for others, the wind direction is toward the east. It’s not approaching our property, but it’s only 10 miles away,” the owner of Concho Hills said. “If the wind changes direction, then we will certainly have a problem. We’ve had forest fires here much closer than that one, and the prescribed burns. But right now it seems to be heading away from us.”
The strategy for the Bear Trap Fire is full suppression. At this time, the fire is not a threat to any communities, and there are no evacuations in effect.
Smoke may be visible in the surrounding areas of Alamo, Datil, Magdalena, Socorro and San Antonio. Smoke-sensitive individuals and people with respiratory problems or heart disease are encouraged to take precautionary measures.
Information on air quality and protecting one’s health can be found online at the New Mexico Department of Health Environmental Public Health Tracking website nmtracking.org. An interactive smoke map is available at https://fire.airnow.gov/, which allows one to zoom into areas to see the latest smoke conditions.
Elsewhere, Stage 1 fire restrictions are now in effect in the Gila. Under Stage 1 fire restrictions, igniting, building, maintaining, or using a fire, including charcoal and briquettes is allowed only inside a fire structure provided by the Forest Service within designated areas. Smoking is allowed only within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site, or while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is clear of all flammable material.
Fire crews are continuing efforts to mop up and secure containment lines on three fires in the Gila National Forest.
The Turkey Fire, 22 miles southeast of Reserve spanning 986 acres, is 71 percent contained.
The Wagon Fire, 14 miles east of Aragon on Wagon Tongue Mountain, was quickly 10 percent contained at 1.1 acres.
And the Water Fire, six miles north of Mimbres had burned 520 acres and is 75 percent contained.
Fire officials continue to remind the public that personal or private drones pose a serious risk to firefighting and can cause air operations to cease, so, “If you fly, we can’t!” officials state. Firefighters have already been forced to ground several flights because of drones in fire areas.
Forest visitors are asked to use extreme caution when fire restrictions are in place.
Violations are punishable as a Class B misdemeanor by a fine of not more than $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for organizations, and/or by imprisonment for not more than six months.
The fire restrictions are in place until December 31, unless rescinded earlier.