SFNF Plans Prescribed Pile Burns to Reduce Hazardous Fuels

Release Date: Jan 3, 2022

Contact(s): Julie Anne Overton


SANTA FE, NM – Jan. 3, 2022 – Thanks to recent snowfall across the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF), fire managers are considering implementing planned prescribed pile burns as early as Jan. 6 with the previously announced Cordovas pile burn. The decision to proceed will depend on multiple factors, including snow pack, fuel moisture levels, air quality, ventilation, forecasted weather and wind, and resource availability. 

Winter is an optimal time to burn piled slash and woody debris from earlier forest restoration work because snow on the ground keeps the fire from spreading to adjacent vegetation. Generally, pile burns produce less smoke and burn with less intensity than broadcast burns across a larger landscape. In some areas, smoke may settle into lower elevations overnight due to fluctuating atmospheric temperatures that produce nighttime inversions.

The projects under consideration, all of which are cleared for implementation under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), are:

Coyote Ranger District:

  • Cordovas piles – 157 acres off Forest Road (FR) 103

Española Ranger District:

  • Pacheco Canyon piles – 600 acres off FR 102

Jemez Ranger District:

  • Pino West piles – 300 acres off FR 10
  • Cerro Pelado piles – 50 acres near the Cerro Pelado lookout tower

Pecos/Las Vegas Ranger District:

  • Gallinas Canyon wildland-urban interface – 400 acres northwest of Las Vegas

Prescribed burns are designed to meet specific objectives and are always managed with firefighter and public safety as the first priority. Motorists can expect increased fire-related traffic in these areas and are advised to drive with heightened awareness.

The SFNF manages all prescribed fires in compliance with New Mexico state regulations on air quality and smoke management. 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 and how to create a clean air space in your home, go to https://facnm.org/smoke#smokeanchor5.

Fire updates will be posted on the New Mexico Fire Information website, Inciweb and on the Santa Fe National Forest’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

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