Fire Managers Proceed with El Rito Canyon Pile Burn Today

TAOS, NM – Feb. 4, 2021 – After successful test ignitions, crews are proceeding with the previously announced El Rito Canyon pile burn today on the Carson National Forest. The 238-acre El Rito Canyon pile burn located northwest of the El Rito community near Highway 110 is designed to remove woody debris from previously thinned areas and reduce the risk of high-severity wildfire.

The El Rito Canyon pile burn area is part of a larger 917-acre thinning project completed during 2016 and 2017 to reduce hazardous fuels near the El Rito community. Fuel breaks, where vegetation has been altered to slow or control a fire, are connected into the Pine Canyon burn scar from 2005. These fuel breaks help provide safer wildfire response in the event of a fire and serve as an important feature for a future landscape-scale prescribed burn.

The decision to proceed with implementation depends on multiple conditions, including snowpack, fuel moisture levels, air quality, wind direction and weather forecasts. Each prescribed burn is designed to meet specific objectives and will be managed with firefighter and public safety as the first priority. Winter is an optimal time to burn slash piles because snow on the ground keeps the fire from spreading to adjacent vegetation. Generally, pile burns produce less smoke and burn with less intensity than broadcast burns across a larger landscape.

The Carson National Forest manages prescribed fires in compliance with New Mexico state regulations on air quality and smoke management. Smoke from the El Rito Canyon pile burn may be visible from Abiquiú, El Rito, Ojo Caliente, Española, and along Highway 84 and State Road 554. A high priority of these prescribed burns will be to minimize smoke impacts to the surrounding communities by utilizing available Emissions Reduction Techniques (ERTs).

Smoke-sensitive individuals and people with respiratory problems 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 (NMDOH) Environmental Public Health Tracking (EPHT) website.

Fire updates will be posted on the Carson National Forest websiteNew Mexico Fire Information website and on the Carson National Forest Facebook page and Twitter @CarsonNF.

For more information on the El Rito Canyon pile burn, contact the El Rito Ranger District at 575-581-4554.

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