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2002 Ponil Complex Fire (Philmont)

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16 years ago.

"..The June 1, 2002 staff banquet usually held on the lawn of the Villa, had to be moved inside due to lightning storms. In Ponil canyon a bolt of lightning dramatically changed everyone's summer. That lightning strike and others nearby, started what came to be known as the Ponil Complex Fire.

Valiant efforts by 1,342 fire fighter personnel, 13 water dropping helicopters, 31 engines, 24 dozers, and 12 water tenders contained the fire by June 17th, but not before it encompassed 92,000 acres (143 Sq. miles). About 28,000 (42 Sq. miles) of those were part of our beloved Philmont Scout Ranch, with 14,000 acres actually burned.

The fire burned in the North Country above highway 64 from the Dean Canyon area into the Valle Vidal and neighboring ranches. But none of our historic buildings were lost as the crews wrapped the buildings with a fire-resistant foil material.

Philmont responded quickly, rerouting crews and modifying programs to keep the magic of the Sangre de Cristos alive for the thousands of summer campers. The fire was extinguished, but a lot of work still needed to be done to mitigate erosion, replace millions of trees, repair trails and rebuild campsites.

As a result of this fire, Philmont created the PHILBREAK Program that ran from 2003 through 2009. PHILBREAK was a  8-9 hours/day for seven day program in all types of conditions. The program takes place during three separate weeks during March (College spring break). Upon arrival at Philmont, participants meet their trained staff and immediately begin project orientation. Work crews perform meaningful service projects for Philmont and build their understanding of wilderness conservation and the outdoors. Participants also have an opportunity to take a ski break at Angel Fire. Participants are required to be a registered with the Boy Scouts of America in their local council, be between the ages of 18 and 26. The Order of the Arrow usually provided a large number of the participants through its Philbreak recruiting efforts."




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