Gila National Forest to conduct prescribed burn on Slaughter Mesa

Prescribed Fire near Quemado Lake will help restore meadow and forest habitats to benefit wildlife

SILVER CITY, NM, April 25, 2023 – The Quemado Ranger District is planning to use prescribed fire to treat approximately 4,650 acres of the Gila National Forest in the Slaughter Mesa area south/southeast of Quemado Lake starting May 4 as fuel and weather conditions allow. The prescribed burn will occur in meadow and ponderosa pine forest habitats, targeting primarily grass and ponderosa pine trees.

In meadow areas, fire will be used to consume grass and small trees, helping to maintain meadow habitats. In forested areas, fire will reduce surface fuels and ladder fuels by burning stumps, logs, and dense pockets of younger trees, helping to restore an uneven-aged forest condition, while reducing ladder fuels that promote stand-replacing wildfire. The disruption of a frequent, low-intensity fire regime has allowed trees to encroach on meadow habitats in the project area, impacting habitat diversity and forage resources for mule deer, elk, and pronghorn. The increasing density of trees in forested areas brings greater risk of stand-replacing wildfire, and threatens habitats of big game, Mexican spotted owl, turkey, northern goshawk, and dozens of other species.

“This prescribed burn is part of the Slaughter Mesa Restoration project including more than 31,000 acres of the Gila National Forest east and south of Quemado Lake,” said Quemado District Ranger Randall Chavez. “We are collaborating with New Mexico Game and Fish on this project to improve wildlife habitat conditions in the project area. The project restores fire to fire-dependent ecosystems, increasing their resiliency and resistance to fire, insect and disease infestation, and climate change.” Learn more about the Slaughter Mesa Restoration project at Forest Service (

Some measure of wind helps carry fire through the burn unit and promotes more complete consumption of targeted fuels. The objectives identified in the burn plan allow for sustained winds of up to 20 miles per hour at 20 feet above the surface of the ground. Under 20-mile per hour sustained winds, large branches and small trees will begin to sway, and small, crested waves may appear on the surface of water bodies.

The Slaughter Mesa prescribed burn is expected to last about one week, with approximately two days of ignitions. Smoke will be visible from New Mexico Highways 32 and 60, from Quemado, and Quemado Lake Estates, and will be heaviest during initial operations. Smoke output from more heavily forested areas in the interior of the burn unit should be expected for about a week, as fire consumes logs, stumps, and other heavier fuels. Information about smoke impacts and recommendations for avoiding health impacts is available at NM Fire Info | Smoke Management. For more information contact Maribeth Pecotte at 575-388-8211 or

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