Prescribed Burn Planned in the Santa Fe Watershed To Reduce Risk of Wildfire, Restore Forest Health

SANTA FE, NM – March 23, 2017 – For Immediate Release. Fire managers on the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) are planning to conduct a prescribed burn in the Santa Fe Watershed as early as Friday, April 7, if conditions, including fuel moisture levels, air quality and weather forecasts, are favorable.

Hand and aerial ignitions on the 850-acre treatment area approximately 4 miles east of the City of Santa Fe could continue for up to three days, depending on fuel conditions, forecasted weather and smoke dispersion conditions. Due to the Watershed’s proximity to the city and terrain that tends to direct smoke toward Santa Fe, prescribed burns within its boundaries may impact populated areas. The SFNF works closely with the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) and the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) to monitor air quality during a planned ignition and limit the severity of smoke impacts.

Historically, low- to moderate-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. Prescribed fires are one of the most effective tools available to resource managers for restoring fire-adapted ecosystems like the SFNF by applying low- to moderate-intensity fire to the landscape under specific conditions within predetermined boundaries.

The Santa Fe Watershed prescribed burn is specifically designed to improve and protect the 17,384-acre Watershed, which provides 40% of the water for the City of Santa Fe, by removing dead forest fuels and reducing the risk of high-intensity wildfire. Prescribed fires are managed with firefighter and public safety as the first priority.

Smoke from the prescribed burn will be monitored to ensure NMED’s Air Quality Bureau regulations are being met. Smoke will likely be visible from Santa Fe, Tesuque, Glorieta, Pecos Canyon, El Dorado and I-25. Smoke may settle into lower elevations and drainages overnight but should lift by midmorning. Lingering smoke may be present for up to one week after ignitions are complete.

Smoke-sensitive individuals and people with respiratory and heart disease are encouraged to take precautionary measures. Information on air quality and protecting your health can be found online at the NMDOH website at https://nmtracking.org/fire.

For additional information about this prescribed burn, please contact the Española Ranger Station at 505-753-7331.

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