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Wildfire damages historic buildings at Big Bend

A wildfire jumped the Rio Grande River on the border of the U.S. and Mexico May 22 and caused extensive damage to Castolon Historic Area at Big Bend National Park. (Photo/NPS)

A wildfire jumped the Rio Grande River on the border of the U.S. and Mexico May 22 and caused extensive damage to Castolon Historic Area at Big Bend National Park. (Photo/NPS)

BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK, TX – Late on May 22, a fast moving wildfire crossed the Rio Grande and caused extensive damage in the Castolon Historic Area of Big Bend National Park.

Smoke was initially observed on May 21 on the Mexican side of the river near the Castolon Historic District of Big Bend National Park. Park staff monitored the fire, and at 6 p.m. May 22 they observed embers crossing the river and starting spot fires on the U.S. side. Wildland and structural fire crews were alerted and mobilized. The fire rapidly spread, and embers from the fire landed on the historic barracks building, which housed the La Harmonia Store and Castolon Visitor Center. This building and the nearby restrooms were destroyed. The Officer’s Quarters suffered slight scorching damage. Cottonwood Campground was evacuated, but has not been damaged. All employees and visitors are accounted for and safe.

The fire has burned approximately 100-acres and is not yet fully contained as of May 24.

Wildland fire and structural crews from Big Bend National Park, Terlingua Fire and EMS and Fort Stockton are on scene and continuing to work toward containing the fire. Additional crews, including the international Los Diablos crew, will be arriving later today.

“It is heartbreaking to have lost La Harmonia, a major icon of Big Bend’s history,” said Acting Superintendent Tom VandenBerg. “High temperatures, extremely dry conditions, and strong winds have made this fire particularly challenging. The entire staff extends our deep appreciation to all of the fire crews who are working hard to contain this fire.”

The historic buildings in the Castolon District were built nearly 100 years ago to house units of the U.S. Cavalry during the Mexican Revolution. Damage to these structures is a terrible loss to the rich history that the park is honored to preserve. More information about this area can be found at: https://www.nps.gov/bibe/learn/historyculture/castolon.htm

Information provided by NPS

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