ALAMOGORDO, RUIDOSO, NM, Fire officials on the Lincoln National Forest successfully utilized the lightning-caused 588 Fire to reduce hazardous fuel accumulations, and improve rangeland and wildlife habitat. This is the first time the Forest has managed a fire in order to achieve resource benefits.
When the fire initially started on May 31 on the Smokey Bear Ranger District, 4 miles south of Glencoe, NM, fire managers followed a carefully thought out process to determine the most appropriate fire management strategy. After considering a number of factors, including public and firefighter safety, resources at risk, fuel conditions, predicted weather, expected fire behavior, smoke impacts, and possible duration, a decision was made to manage the 588 fire to restore overall forest health.
For 5 days the fire gradually moved across the landscape with low to moderate intensity through pinon juniper and some ponderosa pine trees. The ground fire burned thick pockets of vegetation creating more open space and enhancing forest health.
Approximately 30 firefighters were on scene to monitor, check and direct the spread or movement of the fire. In certain instances, the firefighters conducted low-intensity burnout operations to protect cultural sites and improvements such as fences.
On June 3rd, after careful assessment, a decision was made to contain the fire after accomplishing 800 acres due to minimal fire growth and pulses of precipitation over the fire area.
“Managing this natural fire in the right place, at the right time, under the right conditions turned out to be a great success,” said Ryan Whiteaker, Forest Fire Management Officer. “Through an extensive level of engagement, coordination and planning, the forest will continue to find opportunities to manage natural fire not only to keep the forest healthy but to also keep communities safer.”
Not every naturally-caused fire is a candidate for managing for multiple objectives. Each fire will be individually assessed to determine the best fire management strategy. All human caused fires will be suppressed.