Santa Fe National Forest Monitors Cuerno Fire for Point Protection, Multiple Objectives

SANTA FE, NM – Aug. 16, 2016 For Immediate Release.  Fire crews on the Santa Fe National Forest are managing the lightning-caused Cuerno Fire on the Coyote Ranger District under a combination of monitoring and confinement strategies while managers consider a plan to capitalize on the natural ignition to achieve multiple objectives on the landscape.

Crews hiked to the scene after lightning struck a single tree on the remote mesa on Aug. 1 and observed that rock bluffs on three sides created a natural perimeter that would contain the fire. Crews have monitored the fire while it moved south on the mesa, burning dead and down logs and creeping through dried grasses.  In spite of intermittent monsoonal moisture, the Cuerno Fire behavior has remained low to moderate and has grown to 31 acres, removing fuels from the forest floor and restoring low-intensity wildfire to the fire-adapted ponderosa pine stand on the mesa.

The strategy today is to assess conditions on the 221- to 750-acre planning area and prepare for potential future firing operations.  If conditions change, fire managers will reassess their strategy for the Cuerno Fire.

The Forest’s first priority is always firefighter and public safety.  Additional objectives for the Cuerno Fire include mitigating the risk of future high-intensity destructive wildfires that could potentially devastate the watershed and cause flooding in the village of Cañones.  The Cuerno Fire will also improve forest health and promote the growth of grasses and shrubs that provide habitat for game and non-game species.

The Cuerno Fire is burning in ponderosa pine litter, dried grasses, mountain mahogany brush and dead and down timber.  Strategic and tactical decisions for managing this fire to benefit the landscape are based on the Wildland Fire Decision Support System (WFDSS).

Historically, low-intensity wildfires burned through southwestern forests every two to 10 years as part of a natural cycle that removed leaf litter, eradicated disease and thinned the understory, making room for new growth.  Fire managers are taking advantage of the Cuerno Fire to return low-intensity fire to this landscape in a controlled operation that meets forest objectives.

Smoke from the Cuerno Fire may be visible from Cañones, Abiquiu Dam, Abiquiu and surrounding areas.

Smoke-sensitive individuals and people with respiratory problems are encouraged to take precautionary measures.  Information on air quality and protecting your health can be found online at the New Mexico Department of Health’s website at

Updates will be available on the New Mexico Fire Information website at, @SantaFeNF and


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