Santa Fe National Forest Plans Spring Prescribed Burns to Reduce Fuels before Wildland Fire Season

SANTA FE, NM – Feb. 18, 2021 – Fire managers on the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) are planning to strategically implement prescribed burns across the forest this spring to reduce hazardous fuels before the onset of the 2021 wildland fire season.

Fuels treatments are an effective way to slow wildfires and change fire behavior. The most recent example on the SFNF is the August 2020 Medio Fire, which turned from an active crown fire to a surface fire when it reached a treated area in Pacheco Canyon, allowing firefighters to stop the fire’s progression toward significant values at risk, including tribal inholdings, the Santa Fe ski basin and the municipal watershed.

The decision to implement a specific prescribed burn depends on multiple conditions, including the national wildland fire preparedness level and resource availability, fuel moisture levels, air quality, ventilation, and forecasted weather and winds. During the COVID-19 pandemic, fire managers consider smoke impacts to communities before making a final decision to implement a prescribed fire.

Each prescribed burn is designed to meet specific objectives and will be managed with firefighter and public safety as the first priority. The projects under consideration between now and the end of May are:

  • Approximately 240 acres within the 1,200-acre La Presa unit on Mesa de los Indios on the north end of the Coyote Ranger District. The intent is to treat the most critical area before fire season and complete the remainder of the unit next fall.
  • The 430-acre Cordovas prescribed burn on Mesa Poleo near Forest Road (FR) 103 and FR 172 on the Coyote Ranger District.
  • The 966-acre Oso 4 prescribed burn west of the community of Llaves and northeast of Lindrith on the Cuba Ranger District.
  • The 338-acre La Jara prescribed burn north of the community of La Jara on the Cuba Ranger District.
  • The 547-acre North Pacheco unit in Pacheco Canyon on the north side of FR 102. This burn unit ties into the Medio Fire burn scar on the Española Ranger District.
  • The 114-acre Borrego Mesa unit off FR 306 near the Borrego Campground on the Española Ranger District.
  • The 4,455-acre East Rowe Mesa prescribed burn approximately 10 miles south of Pecos on the Pecos/Las Vegas Ranger District.

The SFNF manages prescribed fires in compliance with New Mexico state regulations on air quality and smoke management. 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. Information on the Forest Stewards Guild’s HEPA Filter Loan Program is available here.

Prescribed fire is part of a science-based framework for managing ponderosa pine and dry mixed-conifer forests like the SFNF to reduce the risk of high-severity wildfire and allow low-intensity fire to play its natural role in a frequent-fire ecosystem.

All fire updates will be posted on the SFNF website, New Mexico Fire Information website and on the SFNF Facebook page and Twitter pages.     

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