Park Service began pile burns Thursday in Bandelier and VCNP. Courtesy/NPS
The National Park Service began the process of prescribed fire in Bandelier National Monument and Valles Caldera National Preserve Thursday and will continue through the end of the week as conditions allow or until completion.
The prescribed burns will occur in previously thinned areas where materials have been piled. Burn operations are completed in phases over several days depending on weather and fuel conditions.
The purpose of these burns is to reduce hazardous fuels and the chance for future high-intensity wildfires. The N.M. 4 Pile Burn Unit in Bandelier is approximately 37 acres and extends west from Ponderosa Campground to the Valles Caldera Boundary. The pile burn unit also includes 1 acre in Valles Caldera, directly adjacent to Bandelier on N.M. 4.
Smoke may be visible from N.M. 4, Los Alamos and White Rock. Little to no smoke impacts are anticipated to nearby communities. Signs will be posted along N.M. 4 during implementation. No road closures to N.M. 4 are anticipated; however, smoke may temporarily reduce visibility along NM State Route 4 as crews ignite nearby piled material. Use caution and reduce speeds while driving near smoke.
A final decision on whether to proceed with a specific prescribed burn will depend on multiple conditions, including the national wildland fire preparedness level and resource availability, fuel moisture levels, air quality and forecasted weather. The National Park Service also will take a risk-informed approach to managing prescribed fire during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prescribed fire is part of a science-based framework for managing ponderosa pine and dry mixed-conifer forests in the monument to reduce the risk of high-severity wildfire and allow low-intensity fire to play its natural role in a frequent-fire ecosystem. Each prescribed burn is designed to meet specific objectives and will be managed with firefighter and public safety as the first priority.
The National Park Service 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 Environmental Public Health Tracking website. Find information on the Forest Stewards Guild’s HEPA Filter Loan Program here.