Wildfire Burns Almost 2,000 Acres in Big Bend National Park

This post is being updated continually with information as we receive it.

A grassland wildfire that began in Big Bend National Park Monday afternoon has grown to almost 2,000 acres, the park said Wednesday afternoon.

The fire began from a downed power line around 5 P.M. Monday evening near Panther Junction, the park’s headquarters. (We spoke with park spokesperson David Elkowitz on Morning Edition at 8:45 AM on Wednesday – listen to the audio above for that conversation.)

Here’s what we know about the fire so far (as of Wednesday evening, 2/3/16):

– Big Bend National Park said Wednesday the fire had so far burned almost 2,000 acres. The fire was not actively spreading Tuesday morning, but by Tuesday afternoon had begun spreading to the southeast, the park said, and it continued to spread on Wednesday.

– The fire still was not posing any danger to people or structures on Wednesday, but the park was calling in additional resources as it moved into more rugged and inaccessible terrain.

“As the initial threat to the housing area, powerlines, and other structures has diminished, firefighters work to maintain a good fire break towards these areas. Other firefighters work to continue suppression efforts on this human-caused wildland fire,” the park said.

– All areas of the park now have power restored.

– Parts of the road from Panther Junction to Rio Grande Village campground have been closed against Wednesday afternoon, according to CBS 7.

– Two backcountry campsites in the eastern half of the park are currently closed: the Nugent Mountain and Chilicotal campsites.

– The park said the fire originally began near Panther Junction – park headquarters – but “quickly spread” to the north and east, past the K-bar backcountry campsites.

– Structural and wildland fire resources were working the fire Monday through Wednesday.

– It’s not yet clear what kind of impact the fire will have on the burn area.

“How this area recovers to this fire is yet to be determined,” Big Bend National Park said in a comment on its Facebook page.

“While it is true that wildfires can be beneficial to grassland ecosystem health, this area is also home to non-native invasive grasses that can spread uncontrolled very quickly during fires. Resource managers will continue to monitor this area after fire recovery, when we can better understand how natives compete with non-natives after such an event.”

– After gusty winds and high fire danger across West Texas on Monday, fire weather conditions will continue to be elevated for most of Tuesday, but cooler temperatures and increased humidity have helped firefighters control the flames.

– Brewster County Sheriff Ronny Dodson said the fire was initially was reported to him by dispatchers to be a “pretty big fire.”

– Three fire engines with the Terlingua Volunteer Fire Department have were dispatched to the fire Monday night, joining park resources.

– Elkowitz said neither Rio Grande Village campground or Panther Junction – park headquarters – was threatened by the fire.

Travis Bubenik contributed reporting.

About Tom Michael

Former KRTS/KXWT News Director
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