Ojitos Fire on SFNF Provides Opportunity to Use Fire for Resource Benefit

SANTA FE, NM – Aug. 16, 2017 – For Immediate Release.  Fire managers on the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) continue to monitor the lightning-caused Ojitos Fire on the Coyote Ranger District with a focus on using low-intensity fire on the ground to achieve multiple resource benefits.

The 330-acre Ojitos Fire is on the boundary of the Chama River Canyon Wilderness where fire managers are using natural barriers like roads, rocky mesas and drainages to limit the fire’s spread. The fire’s growth has been limited by monsoonal moisture and topography, which includes drainages, cliffs and patches of bare soil.

Over the last month, the Ojitos Fire has been creeping through ground fuels. Crews are using a break in monsoonal patterns to ignite areas adjacent to Forest Road 468 in an effort to mitigate the risk of future high-intensity wildfire and improve forest health and habitat diversity.

Historically, low-intensity wildfires burned through southwestern forests like the SFNF every seven to 15 years as part of a natural cycle that removed leaf litter, eradicated disease and thinned the understory, making room for new growth. Managing a lightning-caused ignition like the Ojitos Fire mimics that natural process.

The Monastery of Christ in the Desert is approximately 5 miles south of the Ojitos Fire and not at risk. A segment of the Continental Divide Trail known locally as the Ojitos Trail (Trail 298) between NM Highway 96 and Scull Bridge is under a temporary closure order due to the fire until Aug. 31.

The first priority on all wildland fire is firefighter and public safety. The decreased complexity of managing a natural ignition for resource benefit reduces the risk and gives forest managers greater control over fire effects.

Smoke from the Ojitos Fire may be visible from the Rio Chama, the Monastery, nearby mesas, NM Highways 84 and 96. Smoke-sensitive individuals and people with respiratory or heart disease 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.

For additional information, contact the Coyote Ranger District at 575.638.5526.

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