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Weekend Rains Slows Growth of Coyote Fire in Guadalupe Mountains National Park

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Smoke from the Coyote Fire after crews conducted aerial ignitions on May 13, 2016. The ignitions were aimed at reducing dried grasses and other fuels in the region of the still-burning wildfire. (Southwest Area Incident Management)

Weekend rains across Far West Texas helped slow the growth of the Coyote Fire burning in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, though there's a Red Flag Fire Warning in effect for the area Monday due to a forecast of drier and windier conditions.

The Southwest Incident Management Team #3 said in an update on Sunday that the fire had so far burned 10,939 acres and was still 30% contained. Rains across the Guadalupe Mountains helped diminish the flames to mostly smoldering and creeping behavior, and firefighters reported seeing little new growth.

Crews were planning Sunday to continue monitoring the fire, though little new growth was expected as rains continued.

In recent days, firefighters worked to maintain the fire's northern perimeter near the New Mexico-Texas border and to protect historic cabins in the park's McKittrick Canyon area. They've simultaneously allowed the fire to burn into areas where it will benefit the ecosystem, and conducted low-intensity aerial ignitions along some ridge tops. Park officials have described the fire as a net positive for the park.

"Our white pine and conifer forests historically experienced fire every nine to sixteen years," said John Montoya, Fire Management Officer for the park. "However, much of the forest surrounding The Bowl had not seen fire in nearly 100 years."

Authorities said the purposeful ignitions will help reduce dried grasses and other potential fuels in the area of the still-burning wildfire as they continue to work toward containment.

All backcountry areas of Guadalupe Mountains National Park are still closed because of the fire. Dog Canyon, Devil's Hill Trail, Frijole Trail and Foothill Trail are also closed. Park areas that are still open include the Guadalupe Peak Trail, El Capitan, and Smith Spring Trail.

More details on the status of the Coyote Fire can be found here.

Travis Bubenik is All Things Considered Host and Big Bend Reporter at Marfa Public Radio.