SFNF Considers Implementing Prescribed Burn in Santa Fe Watershed Wednesday

SANTA FE, NM – Oct. 25, 2021 – Forecasted conditions, including winds, relative humidities, ventilation and temperatures, may provide an optimal window for the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) to conduct the previously announced prescribed burn in the Santa Fe Municipal Watershed on Wednesday. The decision to proceed will be made Wednesday morning after consultation with partners.

Crews will use hand and aerial ignitions to treat up to 350 acres north of Nichols Reservoir and Granite Point in the lower section of the Santa Fe Watershed. The SFNF has completed first-entry fuels treatments across most of the 7,200-acre lower watershed over the past 12 years. The Aztec Springs unit is in a crucial location that will tie the previous work together, greatly improving the watershed’s resilience to high-severity wildfire.

The Santa Fe Municipal Watershed, which supplies more than 40% of the water for the City of Santa Fe, is managed under the City of Santa Fe’s Municipal Watershed Plan which provides a framework for long-term management and funding for forest restoration.

The Aztec Springs unit sits on a ridge at higher elevation, so smoke and flames are likely to be visible from Santa Fe into the evening hours. The plan is to complete ignitions in one day with a target time of 3 p.m. to allow westerly winds to lift the smoke up and over Thompson Peak before diurnal winds push the smoke downriver toward Santa Fe. In addition to Forest Service personnel, the SFNF has enlisted resources from partners, including the City of Santa Fe Fire Department, Santa Fe County Fire Department and Tesuque Pueblo, as well as a Youth Conservation Corps crew.

The Santa Fe Watershed prescribed burn is specifically designed to improve and protect the 17,384-acre Municipal Watershed by reducing hazardous fuels and woody debris on the forest floor and reducing the risk of high-severity wildfire within the watershed and nearby neighborhoods. Prescribed burns are always managed with firefighter and public safety as the first priority.

The SFNF manages all prescribed fires in compliance with New Mexico state regulations on air quality and smoke management. Due to the Watershed’s proximity to the city, prescribed burns within its boundaries may impact populated areas. The SFNF works with the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) and the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) to monitor air quality during and after a planned ignition.

Smoke from the Aztec Springs prescribed burn will likely be visible from Santa Fe, Tesuque, Glorieta, Pecos Canyon, El Dorado and I-25. Although operations will be completed on Wednesday, smoke may linger over Santa Fe into the weekend.

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 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. People with health concerns can also call NMDOH at 505-827-0006 for additional information. For information on the HEPA filter loan program, go to https://facnm.org/smoke#smokeanchor5.

Fire updates will be posted on the New Mexico Fire Information website and on the Santa Fe National Forest’s Facebook and Twitter pages. For more information, contact the Española Ranger Station at (505) 753-7331.

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