SFNF Crews Continue to Monitor, Manage Ojitos Fire

SANTA FE, NM – Aug. 29, 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, taking advantage of favorable windows to use low-intensity fire on the ground to achieve multiple resource benefits.

Since July 7 when lightning struck a tree in the 90,000-acre Rio Chama block that has been cleared under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for forest restoration, fire crews have added fire to the ground on both sides of Forest Road (FR) 468 and on the west side of the fire perimeter to remove hazardous fuels and mitigate the risk of future high-intensity wildfire.

Fire managers will continue to manage the fire for resource objectives as long as they are seeing positive results. As the fall hunting season nears, hunters are advised to check on the status of the Ojitos Fire before going into the area.  The Coyote Ranger District will post information about the Ojitos Fire on message boards outside the fire perimeter to keep the public informed.

The approximately 1,600-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 to areas where it can meet resource objectives, which include improved 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.

Crews are also cutting and piling woody debris along the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) off of FR 468. This segment of the CDT known locally as the Ojitos Trail (Trail 298) between NM Highway 96 and Skull Bridge is under a temporary closure order until Aug. 31.

The first priority on all wildland fire is firefighter and public safety. The Monastery of Christ in the Desert is approximately 5 miles north of the Ojitos Fire and not at risk.

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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