SANTA FE ― Fire managers on the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) anticipate favorable conditions by the middle of next week to conduct a two-day prescribed burn in the Santa Fe Watershed.
Fire managers anticipated starting the prescribed burn Friday until the latest weather forecast prompted the decision to delay.
Conditions such as fuel moisture levels, air quality, and winds and weather forecasts, collectively play a part in the decision.
The 755-acre treatment area is approximately three miles east of the City of Santa Fe on the south end between Nichols and McClure Reservoirs. Impacts from the hand and aerial ignitions are expected to be minimal due to this being a second entry prescribed burn into this particular area.
Historically, low- to moderate-intensity wildfires burned through southwestern dry conifer forests like the SFNF every seven to 15 years on average as part of a natural cycle that removed leaf litter, eradicated disease and thinned the understory, making room for new growth. Prescribed fires are one of the most effective tools available to resource managers for restoring fire-adapted ecosystems like the SFNF by applying low- to moderate-intensity fire to the landscape under specific conditions within predetermined boundaries.
The Santa Fe Watershed prescribed burn is specifically designed to improve and protect the 17,384-acre Watershed, which provides 40 percent of the water to the City of Santa Fe by removing dead forest fuels and reducing the risk of high-intensity wildfire. Prescribed fires are managed with firefighter and public safety as the first priority.
Due to the Watershed’s proximity to the city and the terrain that tends to direct smoke toward Santa Fe, prescribed burns within its boundaries may impact populated areas. The SFNF works closely with the New Mexico Environment Department and the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) to monitor air quality during a planned ignition, and limit the severity of smoke impacts.
Smoke will likely be visible from Santa Fe, Tesuque, Glorieta, Pecos Canyon, El Dorado and I-25. Smoke may settle into lower elevations and drainages overnight, but should lift by midmorning. Lingering smoke may be present for up to one week after ignitions are complete.
Smoke-sensitive individuals and people with respiratory or heart disease are encouraged to take precautionary measures. Information on air quality and protecting your health can be found online at the NMDOH website at https://nmtracking.org/fire. Prescribed fire updates can also be tracked at https://nmfireinfo.com.
For more information on the prescribed burn, call the Española Ranger Station at (505).753.7331.