CIMARRON, N.M. (KRQE) - As wildfire continues burning in the Pecos Wilderness, it's also continuing to impact thousands of Boy Scouts at one of the most well-known wilderness camps in the country near Cimarron, causing leaders to make some big changes.
The White's Peak wildfire is burning about one mile south of the Philmont Scout Ranch and has gotten closer in the last few days, forcing the closure of one of its main hiking areas.
Philmont Scout Ranch covers about 214 square miles near Cimarron, hosting thousands of Boy Scouts aged 14 and older each summer. The scouts hike dozens of miles in the area, staying on the trail for 10 to 12 days. Ranch leaders equate the area to a "small city." "On the 19th of June we'll become the 34th largest city in New Mexico with around 5,000 people on property," said Owen McCulloch, Associate Program Director for Philmont Scout Ranch.
The summer season is now picking up for Philmont as wildfire is burning just a mile away. Now, it has forced the camp to close a large portion of its land. "About the southern third of the property, we are not currently using for program," said McCulloch. "It's precautionary and because of some of the smoke we have had in the area."
While the fire hasn't touched the ranch property yet, leaders are concerned about how the fire has grown so close. A large spot fire jumped north toward the scout property over the weekend.
The camp has also been forced to make a work-around for several groups, changing itineraries for scouts who were planning on hiking in the southern area. Many scouts book their trips about 20 months in advance.
Leaders say while the experience is a little different and the fire is causing more work, scouts are still enjoying the area. "So they're still having all the hiking and program opportunities that they had before, the property is quite large so we have the advantage of being able to move people around like that," said McCulloch.
There is also some good coming from the fire, as many scouts from across the nation are getting a chance to learn about wildfire. Every morning, dozens are taking part in fire briefings, getting an up-close look at what crews are facing. In some ways, the wildfire is giving scouts an even more unique experience. "As with anything else that might affect us in our operations, it's good to fall back to the scout motto of ‘be prepared,'" said McCulloch.
Philmont Scout Ranch leaders aren't sure when they'll reopen that southern area of the ranch. Crews say higher humidity and cloud cover helped firefighters on Sunday. That's expected to continue into Monday.
The lighting caused White's Peak fire has burnt about 1,268 acres and has increased from 15 to 25% containment on Sunday evening.
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