SANTA FE ― Fire managers on the Santa Fe National Forest are planning to take advantage of the warm days and cool nights of September to conduct prescribed burns in the Santa Fe Municipal Watershed and on Borrego Mesa, both on the Española Ranger District.
The September window is intended to take advantage of fall weather but is dependent on favorable conditions, including fuel moisture levels, air quality and weather forecasts.
The planning area for the Watershed prescribed burn totals 1,800 acres within two to eight miles east of the City of Santa Fe. Approximately 1,550 acres between the Nichols and McClure Reservoirs north of the Santa Fe River will be treated with hand and aerial ignitions. Another 250 acres of piles in the lower Watershed will be treated with hand ignitions.
Smoke from the Watershed prescribed burn may be visible from Santa Fe, Tesuque, Glorieta, Pecos Canyon and the I-25 corridor. Because of the Watershed’s proximity to the city, the Forest Service will make every effort to reduce smoke impacts by timing ignitions and burning in weather conditions that promote smoke dispersal.
The Borrego Mesa prescribed burn will treat 200 acres of hazardous fuels two miles east of Cordova and three miles south of Truchas with hand ignitions. Smoke from the Borrego Mesa burn may be visible from Santa Fe, Española, Tesuque, Truchas, Cordova, Peñasco and El Rito. Smoke from both prescribed burn areas may settle into low elevations and drainages at night, but should lift by mid-morning. Fire managers will use mass ignitions on the Watershed burn to reduce the period of time people are exposed to smoke.
Historically, low-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 by applying low-intensity fire to the landscape under specific conditions within predetermined boundaries.
Both the Watershed and the Borrego Mesa prescribed burn areas are designed to reduce the risk of wildfire by removing dead forest fuels, improve wildlife habitat, promote forest health and provide community protection. Prescribed fires are managed with firefighter and public safety as the first priority.
Smoke from the prescribed burns will be monitored to ensure that it meets the requirements of the New Mexico Environment Department Air Quality Bureau’s smoke management program. Smoke-sensitive individuals and people with respiratory problems 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’s website.
For additional information about these prescribed burns, please contact the Española Ranger Station at 505.753.7331.