Deer Creek Fire on Jemez Ranger District to be Managed for Resource Benefit

Deer Creek Fire on Jemez Ranger District to be Managed for Resource Benefit

SANTA FE, NM – Sept. 19, 2017 – For Immediate Release.  Fire managers on the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) plan to manage the lightning-caused Deer Creek Fire on Peggy Mesa by using low-intensity fire on the ground to achieve multiple resource benefits.

The Deer Creek Fire started Sept. 15 on Peggy Mesa in the old San Diego prescribed burn area and adjacent to the site of this summer’s lightning-caused Peggy Fire. Objectives for managing the Deer Creek Fire include:

  • mitigating the risk of high-intensity destructive wildfires by reducing excess fuels, including fuelwood slash and bug kill in the piñon/juniper and heavy dead/down fuel accumulations and reduction of tree densities in the ponderosa pine
  • providing point protection for historical and cultural sites
  • improving forest health, wildlife habitat and range conditions

The Deer Creek Fire is burning on the ground with very little torching, emulating the low-intensity fires that were common in southwestern forests a century ago. Warm temperatures and low relative humidity have helped the fire grow to more than 140 acres as it consumes dead and down fuels, pine litter and pockets of gambel oak.

Crews have added fire to the ground to keep the Deer Creek Fire between the two-track Trujillo Road and Forest Road 652. If conditions remain optimal for managing the fire, crews plan to expand it into a 1,000-acre planning area.

The SFNF is consulting with partners, including the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Pueblo of Jemez, NM State Forestry, NM Department of Game and Fish, Sandoval County and local volunteer fire departments, about managing the Deer Creek Fire for resource benefit.

The top 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.

Historically, low-intensity wildfires burned through southwestern dry conifer forests like the SFNF every seven to 15 years on average 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 Deer Creek Fire mimics that natural process.

Smoke from the Deer Creek Fire has been minimal but may be visible from US Highway 550, Jemez Pueblo and the communities of Gilman and Cañon. Smoke from the Deer Creek Fire will be monitored to ensure that the New Mexico Environment Department’s Air Quality Bureau regulations are being met.  Smoke-sensitive individuals and those with respiratory or heart disease should take precautionary measures.  Information on air quality and your health is available online at the New Mexico Department of Health’s website at https://nmtracking.org/fire.

For additional information, contact the Jemez Ranger District at 575.829.3535.

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