| Crews Seek Opportunities for Prescribed Fire North and West of Tres PiedrasNM Fire Info

| Crews Seek Opportunities for Prescribed Fire North and West of Tres PiedrasNM Fire Info
| Crews Seek Opportunities for Prescribed Fire North and West of Tres PiedrasNM Fire Info

In addition to tentative plans for prescribed fire near Canjilon, Carson National Forest fire crews are working with meteorologists to identify potential timeframes for two projects near Tres Piedras, NM

Ignitions on the Esquibel or American Creek prescribed fires could start as early as late this week, but they will ultimately depend on weather and site conditions. If unfavorable, fire managers will postpone the project to another season.

“We are looking to see if there will be opportunities to implement these projects after this week’s red flag warnings,” said Agency Administrator Ranger Krall. “Forecasts are currently calling for chances of rain, which may help setup such opportunities to move forward.”

If weather and conditions are favorable, fire managers will prioritize the order of the three potential prescribed fires.

Fire managers will host a community meeting for the public to learn more and ask questions. It will be held Thursday, May 9, from 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm at the Tres Piedras Ranger Station, which is located at 22280 Hwy. 64, Tres Piedras, NM 87577.

Prescribed Fires

The 2,962-acre Esquibel Prescribed Fire unit is north of Tres Piedras off Forest Road 83. The 1,009-acre American Creek Prescribed Fire unit is west of Tres Piedras off Forest Road 44. Maps are available online (Esquibel, American Creek).

The units are part of the Rio Tusas-Lower San Antonio Landscape Project, which aims to restore the forest throughout nearly half of the Tres Piedras Ranger District. Over the last century, forested areas departed from conditions suitable for a healthy and vibrant ecosystem. This is especially true in frequent fire forest types, such as ponderosa and mixed conifer, where stands are unnaturally dense and lacking recent fire history.

Recent work within the project includes the Willow and Dorado/Cañada del Agua prescribed fires over the past year and a half.

Methods and Monitoring

Fire crews will implement an understory burn. In this type of burn, crews apply fire broadly throughout an area under the forest canopy. Grasses, leaf litter, downed branches, brush and occasional single trees or stands are fully burned.

The Esquibel and American Creek units are primarily in ponderosa forest, which is a fire dependent ecosystem. Wildfires here are naturally frequent and low severity, burning on average every 14 to 24 years.

Once ignitions are completed, crews will begin a long-term patrol and monitor plan until the fire is called out.

Prescribed Fire in the Spring

Spring burning ecologically mimics historical fire behavior. Most fires would naturally have started during pre-monsoon seasons and burned through the summer until rains put them out.

Spring burning helps give plant and tree species the best opportunity to bounce back after a disturbance. For grasses and shrubs, the fire kills the tops, but the roots are still intact because of wetter soil. The fire introduces ash, which has elements and natural chemicals that act like fertilizers. The first rainstorm of the monsoon season will mix with that fertilizer and prompt new growth.

Smoke

Unlike a wildfire, prescribed fires are planned. In coordination with the New Mexico Environment Department, fire crews conduct ignitions on days when smoke impacts are minimized.

Nevertheless, smoke will be visible, and dense smoke may briefly settle into local drainages and other low-lying areas near the burn’s perimeter during the evenings and overnight. Smoke may also drift toward communities to the east. Residents can prepare by closing windows and doors and reducing physical activity outdoors when smoke is present.

An air quality specialist will monitor smoke, provide real-time outlooks and may place temporary monitor(s) in nearby communities to supplement visual monitoring. Air quality index, or AQI, data will be available on the Smoke and Fire Map, which includes recommended actions to protect health at different levels of air quality.

The Big Picture

Both the Esquibel and American Creek units are within the Rio Chama Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Project, which spans 3.8 million acres across Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado. A large focus of the project is to restore watersheds, including areas outside national forests. These watersheds not only serve surrounding communities but are major drinking water suppliers for downstream cities, such as Santa Fe and Albuquerque. On the Carson National Forest, the project covers the entirety of the Canjilon, El Rito and Tres Piedras ranger districts.

Implementation Updates

Public information officers will provide updates on InciWeb (Esquibel, American Creek), social media (Facebook, x) and New Mexico Fire Information. Customer service representatives can be reached by phone at the Tres Piedras Ranger Station at 575-758-8678.

(Photo: Fire crew members on the Dorado/Cañada del Agua Prescribed Fire in June 2023)

 
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