SANTA FE ― Fire managers on the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) plan to take advantage of favorable conditions, including fuel moisture levels, air quality, and winds and weather forecasts to initiate a prescribed burn in the Santa Fe Watershed starting as early as Sept. 23.
Two separate units expected to be treated within the Santa Fe Watershed total 950 acres and are approximately three miles east of the City of Santa Fe. One unit is 450 acres northeast of Nichols Reservoir, and the other is 500 acres just south of McClure Reservoir. If conditions are favorable, personnel may treat the units at the same time by hand and aerial ignitions.
Smoke impacts should be minimal due to previously conducted prescribed burns in both areas.
Historically, low- to moderate-intensity wildfires burn through southwestern dry conifer forests like the SFNF every seven to 15 years on average as part of a natural cycle that removes leaf litter, eradicates disease and thins understory, which makes room for new growth. Prescribed fire is one of the most effective tools available to restore fire-adapted ecosystems like the SFNF by applying low- to moderate-intensity fire to the landscape under specific conditions within predetermined boundaries.
The 17,384-acre Santa Fe Watershed provides 40 percent of the water to the City of Santa Fe. Specifically designed to improve and protect the watershed, the prescribed burn will remove dead forest fuels and reduce 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, populated areas may be impacted. 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. Smoke may linger for up to one week after ignitions are complete.