A wild land fire that damaged over 500 acres of land along Highway 70 on White Sands Missile Range was contained before dawn June 23 through the efforts of the White Sands Missile Range Fire Department and the installation’s mutual aid partners. The fire occurred at 4:22 p.m. June 22.
The most probable cause of the fire was from an abandoned vehicle’s catalytic converter, said WSMR’s Fire Department Chief Carlos Soto. The fire was extinguished by 3 a.m., however, crews will continue to monitor the area to ensure that cinders from the plant life do not reignite the fire.
“Thanks to our fire department and all of the organizations who contributed to working together on ensuring the fire was put out in a timely manner, with no injuries,” said WSMR Commander Brig. Gen. Timothy Coffin.
Due to the size of the blaze, the fire department sought the help of the Doña Ana County Fire & Emergency Services, the Las Cruces Division Bureau of Land Management and the White Sands Test Facility NASA Fire Department, who worked throughout the night to contain the fire.
“It’s critical for us and our neighbors to have a good working relationship,” said Don Morrison, WSMR’s chief of Department of Emergency Services. “It worked out well for us.”
Soto said there is a recall in place to recruit the assistance of emergency personnel throughout Dona Aña County, Otero County, and Las Cruces since the installation has been in existence. Soto added that the agreement even extends out to Socorro County. The agreement also says that the WSMR Fire Department is to provide additional assistance throughout the surrounding area whenever necessary.
“One organization cannot do it alone. There’s not enough manpower in any one station,” Soto said. “It’s beneficial for all parties involved that we maintain the relationship we have.”
The fire was contained through a combination of back-burning, aggressive suppression activities and the use of the natural landscape. There were no reported injuries or damages caused by the fire. Morrison said the fire was thought to have been contained before 1:30 a.m., however, plant life that was difficult to put out reignited the fire again.
“The fire creates its own weather,” Morrison said.
Representatives from WSMR’s Environmental Services are visiting the scene to determine the amount of damage to the plant life.
The local wild land fire serves as a reminder for the community to practice safety measures for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday. A notice to the community went out this week that outlined a list of safety tips for those who wish to light fireworks on that day. Only fireworks that are legal in Dona Aña County are allowed at Volunteer Park on post during the night of July 4, but not in the housing areas. Bottle rockets will not be permitted. For more information about fireworks safety, call (575) 678-3585.