Firing operations on the Conejos Fire added low-intensity fire to the ground to consume needle litter and woody debris, leaving the ponderosa pine forest more resilient to wildfire, climate change, and insects and disease. Courtesy/USDA Forest Service
SANTA FE ― While the Conejos Fire on the Jemez Ranger District of the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) is still putting up some smoke, primarily from a 10-acre interior pocket of mixed conifer where it continues to smolder and creep, fire managers say they are pleased with the outcome on 800 acres that had not seen beneficial fire in some time.
Reintroducing low-intensity fire to fire-adapted southwestern forests like the SFNF is part of a natural cycle that removes leaf and needle litter and creates space for a healthy understory, improving forest health and wildlife habitat.
When a lightning strike started the Conejos Fire July 29, fire managers recognized an opportunity to manage the natural ignition to improve conditions on the ground and reduce the risk of high-severity wildfire in the future.
Although unpredictable weather and precipitation created a few delays, fire crews completed the 800-acre perimeter last Friday and achieved objectives, which included burning through a high build-up of fuels on the ground.
Lingering smoke may be visible from US Highway 550, San Ysidro, Jemez Pueblo and Ponderosa.
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 by using the 5-3-1 visibility method can be found online at the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) Environmental Public Health Tracking (EPHT) website at https://nmtracking.org/fire. People with health concerns can also call NMDOH at 505.827.0006 for additional information. For information on the HEPA filter loan program, go to https://facnm.org/smoke#smokeanchor5.