JEMEZ SPRINGS — The Valles Caldera National Preserve is planning to implement a prescribed burn targeting up to 1,050 acres of meadow grassland in Valle San Antonio, in the northwest portion of the preserve’s backcountry.
The burn operations are planned to start today, April 5, and possibly continue into Friday dependent upon suitable weather and fuel conditions. The area is currently under a seasonal closure, so impacts to visitors will be minimal.
NPS officials hope to reintroduce fire into the meadow grasslands, which would result in a low to moderate intensity fire. Prescribed burns are one of the most effective tools available to resource managers for restoring fire-dependent ecosystems and reducing the risk of catastrophic fires. The burns mimic natural fires by reducing forest and grass fuels, recycling nutrients, reducing ladder fuels, reducing encroachment within meadows lands, and increasing habitat diversity, while promoting ecosystem health.
The parameters for implementing a prescribed burn are based upon specific assessments, agency guidelines, and safety protocols.
Managers continuously monitor weather conditions during a burn including wind, temperature, and relative humidity. Fuel quantity and moisture are also measured. The project will not begin unless all conditions support the burn and associated resources are available. If conditions are not met, the burn may be postponed.
Because of the location and elevation, smoke from the burn may be visible from all directions coming into the Jemez Mountains area.
Smoke is expected to linger in neighboring communities including Los Alamos, La Cueva, Sierra Los Pinos, Jemez Springs, Ponderosa, Jemez Pueblo and areas near NM State Route 4. Communities along US-550 including San Ysidro, Zia Pueblo, Bernalillo and Rio Rancho may also see smoke.
Smoke may be a health concern for children, pregnant women, senior citizens, and those suffering from allergies, asthma, chemical sensitivities, or other heart or lung diseases. To reduce exposure to smoke, stay indoors as much as possible with windows, doors, and vents closed. Avoid or limit physical activities outdoors.