NEW MEXICO (CBSMiami/CNN) – Boy scouts across South Florida and the rest of the country are disappointed to learn that a wildfire has forced the storied Philmont Boy Scout Ranch to cancel its back-country hikes through July 14.
The Philmont Scout Ranch, in northern New Mexico, draws generations of Boy Scouts who arduously train for its rugged trails and peaks, every summer.
But officials there announced the “difficult decision” to cancel treks that were scheduled for June 8 (Friday) through July 14.
It was not immediately clear how many scouts and leaders will be affected.
“The safety of our youth participants, volunteers and staff is a priority for everybody at Philmont Scout Ranch and the Boy Scouts of America,” the ranch said on its website. “While efforts continue to extinguish the fire currently burning in the backcountry, the anticipated damage and inability to access the affected areas makes it currently impossible to host backcountry programs.”
“Until the fire is extinguished, the areas are inspected and the damage assessed, it is impossible to definitively state when those programs will resume,” the statement said.
No residences have been lost to the Ute Park Fire, but 14 Philmont outbuildings burned late last week. Staff preparing for the treks were evacuated Friday.
The 36,000-acre wildfire was 23% contained by late Monday. While conditions were more favorable for the 500 men and women tackling the blaze, critical fire weather and smoky conditions are expected in coming days, officials said.
Philmont officials said they were notifying crews. They hope the backpacking treks resume after July 14 “with altered itineraries, assuming the backcountry is safe and infrastructure is restored.” It was not clear if or when treks will be rescheduled.
Comments on the ranch’s Facebook page expressed disappointment, but lauded the move to put safety first.
“I really feel bad for the scouts that are going to miss their treks, because I remember how much hard work goes into going on a trek and how excited I was each time I got to go there,” one commenter wrote. “I have no doubt that they will do everything they can to reschedule the treks for the crews that are being canceled.”
CNN reached out to Philmont for more details but received no response by late Monday. The Boy Scouts echoed the Philmont statement.
In addition to its natural beauty, the ranch offers various programs — such as fishing, black-powder rifle shooting and rock climbs — across 140,000 acres in the Sangre de Cristo mountains. The first scouts came in the summer of 1942.
Generally, treks last for seven days or 12. Successfully completing the hike and doing three hours of conservation work make participants eligible for a prized patch in the shape of an arrowhead.
Programs scheduled at the Philmont Training Center are canceled through June 23. A family event for the next day is still on schedule. A leadership program a few miles south of the base camp is not affected.
“We will continue to work with local, state and federal authorities to continuously evaluate the fire and air quality to ensure that we can safely deliver (an) outstanding program,” Philmont said.
(©2018 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved. By Jamiel Lynch and Phil Gast)