Ute Park Fire forces Philmont to cancel treks through July 14

Philmont staff members camped at the Colfax County Fairgrounds during their evacuation over the weekend. While staff members were permitted to return to base camp, the condition of the backcountry has not drastically improved.

Update, 8 a.m. June 6: The Ute Park Fire spans 36,800 acres and is 30 percent contained. The team fighting the blaze includes 604 people. Philmont says all structures at the Dean Cow backcountry camp were lost. At the Harlan camp, one outbuilding was destroyed.

Original post (June 4):

Philmont Scout Ranch announced Monday that the still-burning Ute Park Fire has forced it to cancel all backcountry treks from June 8 to July 14.

Treks after July 14 may resume, likely with altered itineraries, if backcountry conditions improve.

Additionally, programs scheduled to take place at the Philmont Training Center have been canceled through June 23. The training center expects to welcome back participants beginning with the Philmont Family Adventure on June 24.

The National Advanced Youth Leadership Experience, or NAYLE, program, takes place at Rayado Ridge Leadership Camp. That camp is 7 miles south of the Philmont base camp and is unaffected by the Ute Park Fire. NAYLE will go on as scheduled.

“The safety of our youth participants, volunteers and staff is a priority for everybody at Philmont Scout Ranch and the Boy Scouts of America,” Philmont said in a statement posted on its Fire Information page.

What happens next

Over the next few days, Philmont will contact the lead advisor or contingent leader of all crews that are affected by the decision, beginning with those that are scheduled to arrive first and continuing chronologically.

Affected Philmont Training Center coordinators also will be contacted.

Rather than calling the ranch yourself, Philmont asks that you wait until their team contacts your crew.

“Your assistance will help make sure that Philmont phone lines remain open,” Philmont said in its statement. “Thank you for your support and patience.”

In the meantime, your best information resource will be Philmont’s Fire Information page and Facebook page. These sites are being updated daily.

Those whose summer Philmont adventure has been canceled should be aware that other high-adventure bases — especially the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia — are gearing up to provide outstanding adventures to those impacted.

What we know about the Ute Park Fire

As of 5 p.m. MT Monday, the Ute Park Fire is burning more than 36,000 acres and is 23 percent contained. Residents in Colfax County and the village of Cimarron were cleared to return to their homes at noon Monday.

The fire started Thursday afternoon in Ute Park, a village between Eagle Nest and Cimarron.

It’s centered along U.S. Highway 64, which bisects the Philmont Scout Ranch property.

The fire has destroyed 14 backcountry buildings on Philmont property — most of which were unused. Backcountry Philmont staffers had been safely evacuated before the fire arrived.

Homes in the area have not been damaged.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez talks with Philmont staffers during the evacuation to the Colfax County Fairgrounds.

Philmont staffers keep high spirits during evacuation

On Friday, with the fire moving in, Philmont began evacuating all 1,100 of its seasonal and year-round staffers to the Colfax County Fairgrounds, located about 30 miles east of Philmont in Springer, N.M.

During their forced retreat, the men and women were in high spirits. They received support from nearby landowners and were visited by elected officials from New Mexico, including Gov. Susana Martinez.

The Philmont food team kept the staff well nourished, and training for the summer season continued at the new location.

The staff returned to Philmont on Sunday afternoon, and the ranch shared this simple photo and message: “Our staff is home.”

About Bryan Wendell 3281 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.