December 1, 2023
New Mexico has been stricken with a series of massive wildfires that have proven difficult to control. Firefighters from states away have come to New Mexico's aid, battling multiple blazes...

New Mexico has been stricken with a series of massive wildfires that have proven difficult to control. Firefighters from states away have come to New Mexico’s aid, battling multiple blazes over the past few weeks.

One fire that’s still raging is the Hermits Peak and Calf Creek Fire. It has burned over 300,000 acres and was only 42 percent contained as of Tuesday, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican.

Authorities hope that a change in weather — cooler temperatures and less wind — will help them finally stamp out the fire, but there’s no guarantee as they continue their fight.

On May 21, though, a visiting fire crew from the Missoula Fire Department experienced a small reprieve in the form of a heartwarming find.


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As they canvassed the Gascon area, looking for any remaining hotspots, they came across a newborn elk nestled in a bed of ashes.

“She was lying quietly in a six-inch deep layer of white ash, surrounded by the blackened remains of fir trees,” firefighter Nate Sink said, according to the Facebook page for the Calf Canyon and Hermits Peak Fire.

“The whole area is just surrounded in a thick layer of ash and burned trees,” Sink elaborated, according to ABC News. “I didn’t think it was alive.”

Hoping the mother would come back for her calf, the crew left the baby alone and watched from a distance for over an hour, but there was no sign of mom or any tracks in the area.

Locals Lisa and Carl Bartley, who run a ranch in Upper Rociada, took in the newborn and contacted their veterinarian for help. The vet advised they feed the baby a mixture of condensed milk and water, and their dog helped, too.

“Our dog, Brylee, was intent on doing his best to mother little Cinder,” Lisa Bartley said.


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The calf, named “Cinder,” was eventually transported to Cottonwood Veterinary clinic and has been paired with a surrogate elk at a wildlife refuge near Las Vegas, New Mexico.

If all goes well, in four months the little calf will be big enough to release back into the wild, though veterinarian Kathleen Ramsey said they’ll probably wait until December to avoid elk-hunting season.

The Bartleys have let rehabbers know that they would be delighted to have Cinder released in Upper Rociada once she’s independent enough to fend for herself.

Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she’s strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.

As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn’t really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she’s had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children’s books with her husband, Edward.


Austin, Texas

Languages Spoken

English und ein bißchen Deutsch

Topics of Expertise

Faith, Animals, Cooking