Silver Fire now 50 percent contained – firefighters put even more emphasis on safety after tragedy in Arizona

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Firefighters continue to battle steep, rugged terrain and sometimes fierce weather conditions as they fight the Silver Fire, which has now covered an estimated 133,625 acres.

“Safety is always a priority, but we have put even more emphasis on it now,” said Denise Croker, public information officer for the U.S. Forest Service assigned to the New Mexico Incident Command Unit. “We have not had any recent injuries and no loss of life.”

The unit held a three-hour stand-down this morning in honor of the firefighters lost in Arizona’s Yarnell Hill Fire on Sunday. The stand-down was an opportunity for crew members to reflect on the loss of their peers, and to evaluate their commitment for themselves. All crew members returned to work. The Silver Fire, which started June 7 due to lightning, now has close to 700 personnel dedicated to it.

Fire activity was moderate on Sunday. Humidity and moisture were key players in helping crews reach 50 percent containment. Precipitation was primarily on the northern area of the fire, and lightly on the south. The southwest side of the fire has been contained to the Raab Park Trail. Minimal activity remains on the east and south. Fire growth continues to the north, including the Reed’s Peak vicinity.

Crews will continue to monitor the perimeter of the fire, including finalizing protection of the Cooney structure, which is almost complete. Monday’s fuels are expected to carry slower than previous days due to the moisture in the fine fuels on the ground. Slower fuel carrying will possibly bring creeping and smoldering in the morning, transitioning into low to moderate surface fire throughout the day.

A total of 83 Gila trout were successfully relocated to the Mora Fish Hatchery by the Gila National Forest and cooperators.

Anyone seeking information regarding the Yarnell Hill Fire can contact Mike Reichling at the Arizona State Forestry Division at 928-427-3347, or Carrie Dennett at 602-399-3078.

Smoke: Variable winds are expected near the Silver Fire. Communities of Mimbers Valley and surrounding areas can expect smoke from the Silver Fire intermittently at different times of the day as the wind shifts directions. Additional smoke may be visible along the north and northwest part of the fire if the burnout operations are initiated.

For information about health effects of smoke, including actions individuals can take to protect themselves, and guidance on distances and visibility based on location of current fires, visit https://nmtracking.org/fire.

Monday’s weather: A high pressure system is moving south over the fire. This system brings a greater chance of storms, and forecasters anticipate much needed precipitation. Strong, erratic winds are possible, with wind shifts out of the southwest. The temperature today is expected to be lower than the last few days, most likely staying around the mid-70 to 80 degree range.

Open areas: Silver City, Hillsboro and Winston remain open. Businesses along state Highways 15 and 35 remain open, all the way to the Gila Cliff Dwellings. The majority of the Gila National Forest is open for recreational opportunities with Stage 1 fire restrictions in effect. For more information on restrictions, go to firerestrictions.us. There is an emergency closure on the forest for the fire area. For more information about the fire closure go to http://www.fs.usda.gov/gila.

Roads: State Highway 152 is open as of 10 a.m. July 1 from Kingston to San Lorenzo. Although the highway is open, there is a forest closure still in effect for some areas. Safety is still a concern; watch for domestic livestock, wildlife, rocks, fallen trees and debris. For additional information go to www.nmroads.com, www.facebook.com/SilverFireNM, www.flickr.com/gilaforest and www.twitter.com/SilverFireNM.