SANTA FE – After careful consideration of current and forecasted conditions, including winds, weather and relative humidity, fire managers on the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) are planning to take advantage of a favorable window to conduct the previously announced prescribed burn in the Santa Fe Watershed Tuesday, April 11.
Hand and aerial ignitions on the 340-acre treatment area, located approximately 3 miles east of the City of Santa Fe between the Nichols and McClure Reservoirs, should be completed by 4 p.m. Tuesday afternoon. Due to the Watershed’s proximity to the city, a smoke column from the prescribed burn will be visible throughout the area.
Unusual wind patterns for the spring are expected to push the smoke north of Santa Fe toward Chimayo, Truchas, Peñasco and Dixon Tuesday afternoon. Light smoke may be seen in Española and as far north as Taos Tuesday evening, but is expected to clear by midnight.
Predicted moisture and high humidity Tuesday night should help reduce smoke production overnight with minimal impacts in the Santa Fe metro area Wednesday morning and clearing the air prior to the Good Friday pilgrimage to Chimayo.
The SFNF works closely with the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) and the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) to monitor air quality during a planned ignition and limit the severity of smoke impacts. Smoke from tomorrow’s Watershed prescribed burn will be monitored to ensure that residents in the affected areas receive accurate public health messages.
Smoke-sensitive individuals and people with respiratory or heart disease are encouraged to take precautionary measures.
The SFNF also will notify area schools and hospitals to take recommended precautions to limit exposure to smoke. Information on air quality and protecting your health can be found online at the NMDOH website at https://nmtracking.org/fire.
The treatment area is part of a larger unit that was initially treated with prescribed fire in 2010. Historically, low- to moderate-intensity wildfires burned through southwestern forests every two to 10 years 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 Santa Fe Watershed by applying low- to moderate-intensity fire to the landscape under specific conditions within predetermined boundaries.
According to smoke specialists and meteorologists, spring conditions are more conducive to reducing smoke impacts from prescribed fire in the Watershed than burning in the fall.
Fire managers are taking advantage of the moist spring conditions and predicted weather to protect the 17,384-acre Watershed, which provides 40 percent of the water for the City of Santa Fe, by removing heavy forest fuels to reduce the risk of high-intensity wildfire while also minimizing smoke impacts to communities.
Prescribed fires are always managed with firefighter and public safety as the first priority.
For additional information about this prescribed burn, please contact the Española Ranger Station at 505.753.7331.