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After 11 Days, Castolon Fire At Big Bend National Park Is 100 Percent Contained

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A wildland fire that first started in Mexico and soon spread to Big Bend National Park has damaged historic sites, inlcuding the Castolon Visitor Center and store. (National Park Service / Tom VandenBerg)

By Carlos Morales

The Castolon Fire, which first began in Mexico and soon jumped the Rio Grande into Big Bend National Park, has been contained after destroying historic structures and burning through mesquite thickets for 11 days.

The fire was contained over the weekend on June 1, according to a press release from staff at the sprawling Far West Texas park. In total the blaze, burned through 944 acres — less than the roughly 1,300 acres park staff had originally estimated the fire at.

Shortly after the fire began to spread in the national park, embers from the blaze landed on the area’s historic barracks building, which was home to the Castolon Visitor Center and the La Harmonia Store. The adobe building — first built nearly 100 years ago to house U.S. Cavalry during the Mexican Revolution — was destroyed.

“Although damaged, Castolon remains a rich remnant of Big Bend’s pioneer and military past, and represents the mixing of cultures along the border.” said acting Superintendent Tom VandenBerg in a press release. "In spite of losing so much, we are forever grateful for all the facilities that were spared.”

Following the destruction of the visitor center and the La Harmonia store, the park was able to recover historic artifacts, like two cast iron stoves and the La Harmonia Store sign that once hung above the doorway.

It’s unclear how much it will cost to restore the buildings or the impact the fire will have on the park going forward. But in the coming weeks and months, park management will weigh their options for restoring visitor services and "long-term plans" for the historic Castolon district.

In the meantime, the Big Bend Conservancy —the park's fundraising partner— has set up a fundraiser to help cover costs from the fire.

During the height of the West Texas blaze, dozens of firefighters from across the state, including the Los Diablos fire crew from Mexico, were in Big Bend working to contain Castolon fire and prevent it from spreading any further or reaching other historic structures or campgrounds.

Members of Los Diablos will remain in the area to clear out dry vegetation and remove other potential “fuels.”

Park staff say pockets of heat are still present in burned areas.

Carlos Morales is Marfa Public Radio's News Director.