Montana firefighters save elk calf while battling New Mexico blaze

SANTA FE. N.M. — A crew of firefighters from Montana rescued a newborn elk calf found in the ashes of a New Mexico wildfire on Saturday.

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Nate Sink, a firefighter from Missoula, found the calf on the ground in the Gascon area of the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon fire, KTMF-TV reported. The crew, from the Missoula Fire Department, discovered the elk in a pocket of badly burned forest, according to the television station. The fire had spread across 486 square miles and damaged hundreds of structures, according to The Associated Press.

“She was lying quietly in a 6-inch deep layer of white ash, surrounded by the blackened remains of fir trees,” Sink told KTMF.

According to the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon fire Facebook page, the crew named the 32-pound calf “Cinder.”

“The whole area is just surrounded in a thick layer of ash and burned trees,” Sink told the AP. “I didn’t think it was alive.”

Firefighters watched the calf for about an hour, hoping her mother would return, the Missoulian reported. When no other elk appeared in the area, firefighters eventually took Cinder to the New Mexico Wildlife Center, according to the newspaper.

Cinder is now recovering at the Cottonwood Veterinary Clinic, KTMF reported.

“She has gotten the hang of bottle-feeding, and a surrogate-mother elk at the refuge has taken on the duties of cleaning and bestowing affection on the little orphan,” according to the Facebook post.

Cinder will spend about four months at the clinic before being released back into the wild, according to KTMF.

As for Sink, the firefighter and his colleagues returned home to Missoula, ending their two-week stint fighting fires in New Mexico, the Missoulian reported.