Regional
10:02 pm
Wed July 3, 2013

Hundreds Of Silver Fire Responders To Leave

Six hundred responders are set to leave the scene of the Silver Fire by Friday, bringing the number of responders to 100 while the fire is around 50 percent contained.

In a forest that's always green, this year, it looks like autumn came early.

The silver fire has left thousands of acres in the Gila National Forest destroyed. The flames turned the leaves of the evergreen trees brown and black.

The fire is beginning to die down, though.

"The fire's laying down. It's not making the big runs. It's not torching like it was."

That's Iris Estes. She is a public information officer with New Mexico's Incident Management Team.

With the fire drawing back, so is the number of people who fight it.

“We’re looking at about 700 people. Now we're going to be downsizing to less than 100…debrief with work that's left on the incident,” said Richard Nieto, Deputy Incident Commander for New Mexico’s Incident Management Team.

Richard Nieto is the deputy commander here at an elementary school outside Silver City that became incident command.

The number of responders is drawing back and so is the type. From type 2 who work on a mostly national scale, to a Type 3, where most responders are from New Mexico.
                
"So with the Type 3 team…any residual work…they'll work on that,” said Nieto.

Commander Nieto, like others here, wears a purple ribbon on his shirt to remember the 19 firefighters who died in Arizona’s Yarnell Hill Fire. He knew one of them personally.

“I think first and foremost, inherently their families. Our heart goes out to those families. Whatever we can do to support them as well. They'd do the same for me and they’d do the same for everybody else,” said Nieto.

It was eerie to be in this forest with charred trees. The air smelled like a campfire. But it is anything except a campfire that ripped through here. It was a force of nature. And another force of nature was headed this way. Thunder was beginning to roll.

Thunder that brings rain, but also what first started this fire -- lightning. The weather is always on the mind of those in command.

“Best-case scenario is that the weather does indeed come in and we get measurable precip…we'll see how that happens. You know how that weather goes so well see how that plays out and get measurable precip, that's what we're looking at,” said Nieto.

So far, injuries in this fire have been limited to blisters and dehydration.

"We had 6 minor injuries…. very good safety records given the conditions that we had the last ten days,” said Nieto.

Public information officer Estes says most of the dehydration-related injuries were with people not acclimated to the region.

“We’ve had teams from all over the country…and they’re not used to this dry that we have,” said Estes.

It will take time, but the charred remains will come back to life.
The evergreens will again one day live up to their name.

Long before that, the change is here in the ranks, as one team hands the fire over to another team one-seventh its size.