Expect to See Smoke During Aerial Ignition on Lava 18 Fire

Lava 18 Fire Interagency News Release

For Immediate Release

September 5, 2019

Contact:  Ernie Price, 505-285-4641 ext. 18, ernie_price@nps.gov

Expect to See Smoke During Aerial Ignition on Lava 18 Fire

Grants, NM – The lightning-ignited Lava 18 Fire is approximately 330 acres. Firefighters plan to use aerial ignitions the next two days to strategically burnout approximately 100 acres each day. This will help reinforce holding features along roads and trails on the east side of the fire to strengthen protection for private property in the area.

The past two days firefighters used handheld drip torches to conduct strategic burnout operations for approximately three miles along a handline and the 100 Road, east of the fire to create a buffer of burned vegetation between the fireline and the main body of fire. The planned aerial ignitions will help widen this buffer to help prevent the fire from spreading to the east onto private land.

Smoke is expected during burnout operations. Firefighters plan to take advantage of favorable winds from the east on Thursday and Friday, which are expected to push smoke to the west, back into the fire, and away from private property. Information on air quality and protecting your health by using the 5-3-1 visibility method can be found online at the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) Environmental Public Health Tracking (EPHT) website at https://nmtracking.org/fire.

The fire is maintaining the natural role of fire on the landscape, backing against the wind, clearing the buildup of dead and down vegetation from the forest floor, with occasional wind driven runs in needle cast and single tree torching. Firefighters continue to monitor this lightning-caused fire where it is benefiting the ecosystem and use a full range of tactics to protect private property and cultural resources.

Once strategic firing operations are complete, the fire is expected to gradually grow until extinguished naturally by significant precipitation. As the fire continues to progress, it is expected to vary in intensity, spread, and duration with fire changes in fire activity, fuels, and weather.

The fire has transitioned to a Type 3 Incident Commander on September 5. Approximately 54 personnel are assigned to the fire. Resources include one helicopter, three engines, the 8-person Black Hills Wildland Fire Module (a crew that specializes in fire effects monitoring, ignition, holding, line construction, and long-term planning), one 20-person state crew, one 4-person state Rapid Extraction Module (REM) team (a group of responders that can extract an injured firefighter if needed), and miscellaneous support personnel.

The Lava 18 Fire is located approximately 19 miles southwest of Grants, NM on the National Park Service (NPS) El Malpais National Monument and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) El Malpais National Conservation area. Cooperators include New Mexico State Forestry, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the U.S. Forest service. The lightning-ignited fire was reported on August 22, 2019. Vegetation in the area consists mostly of ponderosa pine and mixed grasses, with some Douglas fir, piñon, and juniper in places.

Additional information is available on https://inciweb.nwcg.gov and https://nmfireinfo.com.

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