Carson National Forest Prepares to Move Forward on Utilizing Hondito Wildire for Resource Objectives

Taos, NM – May 21, 2017 For Immediate Release.  Fire managers on the Carson National Forest have begun operations to expand the lightning-caused Hondito wildfire on the Tres Piedras Ranger District to achieve resource objectives on the landscape. Based on current and forecasted conditions, which include moisture Tuesday, fire managers expect to treat 7,300 acres of 14,900 acre planning area over the next two days. If conditions change, fire managers will reassess their strategy for the Hondito Fire.

Lightning struck the Hondito Canyon four miles southwest of Tres Piedras and was discovered on May 15, 2017.  Because the area is located adjacent to the footprint of the previously announced Tio Gordito prescribed burn and has been designated for treatment, fire managers monitored the Hondito wildfire as it burned at low intensity while they analyzed its potential to benefit forest health in a fire-adapted ecosystem.

The objectives for the Hondito wildfire include mitigating the risk of high-intensity wildfire by reducing forest fuels, enhancing wildlife habitat by reducing dense understories and increasing forbs and grass cover, improving forest and watershed health, and protecting nearby communities.

The Hondito wildfire is burning in ponderosa pine litter and dead and down timber.  Strategic and tactical decisions for utilizing this fire to benefit the landscape are based on the Wildland Fire Decision Support System (WFDSS).

The forest’s first priority is always firefighter and public safety.  Other priorities for the Hondito wildfire include protecting and enhancing habitat for the Goshawk, and preserving the multiple archaeological and cultural sites in the area.

CLOSURE ORDER 02-442: The area under the closure order is adjacent to Township 28 N, Range 9 E, Section 31, Junction of Forest Road (FR) 222/675T and FR 167 to the junction of FR 222/1864 to the US Highway 64 junction approximately three miles north of the Tres Piedras Range District Office.

The closure order includes motorized traffic of any kind in the restricted area. Exemptions include federal, state and local officers, members of an organized rescue team or firefighting force, and anyone with a valid Forest Service permit exempting them from the order.

Forest Service personnel will enforce the orders. Any violation of this prohibition is punishable as a Class B misdemeanor by a fine of not more than $5,000 or individuals and $10,000 for organizations, or by imprisonment for not more than six (6) months or both. [Title 16 USC 551, Title 18 USC 3559, 3571 and 3581]

Smoke from the Hondito Fire may be visible from Tres Piedras, Taos, Questa, US Highway 64, US Highway 285.  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 https://nmtracking.org/fire.

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 Hondito wildfire to return low-intensity fire to this landscape in a controlled operation that meets forest objectives.

For Fire information, please call the Hondito Wildfire Public Information line from 8am to 8pm at (575)758-6345, or visit the Carson National Forest Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/CarsonNF or Twitter @CarsonNF.

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