Gila National Forest – Multiple Fires on Wilderness Ranger District – July 3, 2019

Black Fire

The lightning-caused Black Fire is approximately 150 acres, burning on National Forest System lands in the Aldo Leopold Wilderness, Gila National Forest. This fire is approximately 20 miles northeast of Mimbres near the Black Canyon and in very steep and rugged terrain.

Little Fire

The lightning-caused Little Fire is approximately 250 acres, burning on National Forest System lands in the Gila Wilderness, Gila National Forest. This fire is approximately 4.5 miles west of the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.

South Fire

The lightning-caused South Fire is approximately 100 acres, burning on National Forest System lands in the Aldo Leopold Wilderness, Gila National Forest. This fire is approximately 30 miles north of Mimbres.

Woodrow Fire

The lightning-caused Woodrow Fire is approximately 4 acres, burning on National Forest System lands in the Gila Wilderness, Gila National Forest. This fire is south of Mogollon Creek and south of Trail Canyon in T12S R16W section 31.

Summary: Helicopter reconnaissance shows that these naturally-ignited fires are doing good things for the land. District Ranger Rachelle Huddleston-Lorton stated “the individual fires appear to be having low to moderate effects, cleaning up dead and down trees, and debris from previous fires, and reducing ladder and surface fuels. This is what we want to see – fire playing its natural role in the ecosystem.”

Understanding management strategy for fire within congressionally-designated wilderness – Managing fire in designated wilderness areas presents opportunities and challenges that are different than in non-wilderness areas. One of the biggest challenges is that the land manager must protect wilderness characteristics and values except under specific circumstances when life and personal property are threatened, such as search and rescue operations.

Managing wildland fire requires making decisions in a short amount of time. The land manager gathers information about plant-animal life, history of fire in the area, and information from local citizens and government to make decisions on how to manage the fire.

When a Forest Service manager decides to place a fire in monitor status the intent is not to “let it burn” and hope for a positive outcome. Monitoring fire means assessing the fire based on potential fire behavior, upcoming weather predictions, tracking behavior, evaluating fire effects and many other factors. Direct or indirect action may be taken to protect values at risk; managers and firefighters must be prepared to engage in a different way when that occurs.

Smoke from fire rises during the daytime, but in the evening can pool down in canyons, drainages, and basins. For information on air quality and protecting your health, and to find guidance on distances and visibility, please visit https://nmtracking.org/fire. Fire information can be found at nmfireinfo.com and on Inciweb.

For information on the Gila National Forest, check out our website at https://www.fs.usda.gov/gila or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

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