Firing Operations Continue on West Side of SFNF

SANTA FE, NM – Sept. 23, 2017 – For Immediate Release.  Fire managers on the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) continue to manage the lightning-caused Ojitos Fire on the Coyote Ranger District and the Deer Creek Fire on the Jemez Ranger District by using low-intensity fire on the ground to achieve multiple resource benefits.

The Ojitos Fire is at 2,900 acres on the boundary of the Chama River Canyon Wilderness within a planning area of 47,610 acres.  Fire crews continued work on the south and east perimeter of the fire yesterday by adding black line on Mesa Corral and Mesa Camino adjacent to the wilderness area and private land.  Fire managers plan to use a combination of hand and aerial ignition techniques on the Ojitos Fire.  The fire intensity and activity is expected to remain low. With a forecasted drying trend this weekend, aerial ignitions may begin as soon Monday or Tuesday and may result in an increase volume of visible smoke.

The Deer Creek Fire on Peggy Mesa is holding at 140 acres within a planning area of 1,022 acres.  Yesterday fire crews finished the prep work along the perimeter of the fire.  Although the local area received some precipitation, rain did not impact fire operations as fuel moistures remain low.  Today a helicopter will recon the area as crews begin hand ignitions to blackline the perimeter.  Aerial ignitions may begin as early as Sunday.  A smoke monitoring system has been placed on the Jemez Pueblo and will monitor air quality during the remainder of the fire.

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 Ojitos Fire may be visible the Rio Chama, the Monastery of Christ in the Desert, nearby mesas, NM Highways 84 and 96.  Smoke from the Deer Creek Fire may be visible from US Highway 550, Jemez Pueblo and the communities of Gilman and Cañon.

Smoke 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.

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