Carson National Forest to Resume Prescribed Fire Operations

Carson National Forest fire crews are preparing to resume prescribed fire operations this winter to reduce hazardous fuels in advance of warmer, drier weather. The Willow Piles Prescribed Fire, which would only move forward pending suitable conditions, is the first such for the Carson National Forest after the USDA Forest Service National Prescribed Fire Review was released in September 2022.  

“We are thoughtfully moving forward with our prescribed fire program,” said Carson National Forest Supervisor James Duran. “I want to ensure staff are getting to know the new guidelines and to hold space for conversations in the community as we plan more prescribed fire operations around the Forest.” 

An open house for the public to drop in to discuss the Willow Piles Prescribed Fire and future projects in the Tres Piedras area will be held between 5:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. on Feb.1 at the Tres Piedras Ranger Station, 22280 Hwy. 64, Tres Piedras, NM 87577. 

Prescribed fires are utilized to remove hazardous fuels, return nutrients to the soil and improve forest health. Fuels specialists write prescribed fire plans that identify – or prescribe – the best conditions under which forest vegetation and debris will burn to get the best results safely. Burn plans consider temperature, humidity, wind, moisture of the vegetation and conditions for smoke dispersion.  

The Forest Service’s national fire management strategy is centered on long-term forest health, and that strategy includes reducing forest fuels and using prescribed fire on the landscape. In order to maintain resiliency, fire-adapted forests in the Southwest region must undergo fire disturbance on a regular basis. After prescribed fire is completed, if a future wildfire reaches this area, the fire behavior will likely be modified to a less intense, more manageable surface fire due to the absence of accumulated debris and ladder fuels.  

Ignitions at the Willow Pile Prescribed Fire project could start as early as Feb. 7. An exact ignition date will depend upon weather and fuel conditions being within prescription as outlined in the project burn plan. Implementation announcements and updates will be posted on InciWebNew Mexico Fire Information and on the Carson National Forest’s websiteFacebook page and Twitter feed.  

Piles of slash created from 500 acres of thinning may be treated throughout an area south of Highway 64 between Tres Piedras, NM, and Hopewell Lake (map). 53 inches of snow have fallen in the area so far this season, according to the latest data from National Water and Climate Center. 95 acres were completed in winter 2022. More acres will be addressed in future years as mechanical thinning is completed. 

The area has been the focus of a commercial timber sale and forest thinning to reduce stand densities, improve wildlife habitat foraging and to facilitate the reintroduction of fire to the landscape. It’s just one of the many projects within the Rio Chama Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Project, which spans 3.8 million acres in New Mexico and Colorado to improve and maintain water quality and watershed function and restore natural fire regimes using prescribed fire, among other goals. 

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