Wildfires Kick Off New Mexico’s Summer

Wildfires Kick Off New Mexico’s Summer

Gila National Forest, Jemez Springs Sites Remain Open

The “Round Fire” is burning on the Gila National Forest in the Aldo Leopold Wilderness. It began on June 6 and was caused by lightning. The fire spans 6,577 acres but remains uncontained.

It is being managed with the primary objective of maintaining and restoring fire’s natural role in the forest. The fire will restore and enhance diverse ecosystems including Mexican Spotted Owl habitat. By fire maintaining its natural role in the ecosystem, the potential for catastrophic wildfire is reduced.

The fire behavior continues at low to moderate intensity. Resources are continuing to mop up and hold on Forest Road 500 and monitoring fire as it backs onto a portion of Diamond Creek. Some precipitation was received on portions of the fire and moderated fire behavior.

There are no area, road, or trail closures relating to the Round Fire at this time. The Gila National Forest is currently open to the public.

Public may experience smoky conditions if driving on FS Road 226 and/or State Highway 59. There are numerous fire personnel driving and working along Forest roads 226 and 500. Keep speeds low while traveling the area.

Gila National Forest’s Corral Fire

The Corral Fire is estimated at 16,924 acres and is burning with low to moderate intensity in pinon juniper grassland fuels and some pine stringers. The fire received some precipitation and thunderstorms are expected today.

The fire is behaving as it should in a fire adapted ecosystem. The strategy of this fire is to reduce live woody fuels, reduce fuel loads on the ground, improve forest health and watershed conditions, and support the reintroduction of fire in the natural ecosystem.

Forest Service Road 150 is open to motorists. Traffic will be heavier than usual, so exercise caution and yield to fire vehicles as needed.

Gila National Forest’s Straw Fire

The Straw Fire, at 7,000 acres, is also in the Gila Wilderness. Fire behavior is low to moderate.

The fire is about 2.5 miles east of the Gila Cliff Dwellings. It is also being managed for multiple objectives including fuels reduction, reduce live wood density in the pinon-juniper and maintain the natural role of fire in the Wilderness.

Bonita Fire

The Bonita Fire continues to burn on lands administered by the Carson National Forest on the El Rito Ranger District.

On June 20, firefighters with the Type 2 Incident Management Team conducted burnout operations along the southern edge of the fire planning area. Fire was applied to the landscape using both aerial and hand ignitions to remove grasses, brush and other vegetation in attempt to slow fire growth.

Increased smoke was visible from the southern side of the fire as a result of these strategic ignitions. Firefighters were able to slow the spread of fire to the east through an area previously treated by a prescribed burn. On the northern and western sides, crews patrolled the fire perimeter and extinguished remaining areas of heat.

The amount of smoke is expected to diminish each day now that a significant amount of fuel is no longer available to the fire.

The New Mexico Department of Health advises those residents affected by the smoke, including individuals with respiratory or heart disease, adults over age 65, young children, and pregnant women, to relocate until the air quality improves. The air quality monitor at Cañon Plaza shows that conditions may be unhealthy for sensitive groups, however the general public is not likely to be affected.

This condition is an improvement from past days, in which air quality was considered very unhealthy or hazardous. Residents with sensitivities in the affected area are encouraged to close their windows overnight until smoke lifts in the morning.

Crews will continue to secure the southwestern edge near Cañon Plaza using controlled hand ignitions to remove excess fuels from the area. Firefighters will begin to assess rehabilitation needs and repair the landscape to remove evidence of firefighting activities. Crews will continue to patrol and monitor the areas surrounding the fire to ensure the perimeter is secure.

A closure order for those lands located within the boundaries of the Bonita Fire Area remains in effect until further notice.

The Cajete Fire

The Cajete Fire began June 15 and was caused by an abandoned campfire. It was located across 1,412 acres and is now 96 percent contained.

Stage 1 fire restrictions are in effect and the burned area is closed. Residents and visitors should not enter the burned area as it is very hazardous. Motorists are urged to be aware of firefighting equipment in transit along Highway 4.

All businesses and recreation sites in and around Jemez Springs are open, with the exception of the Jemez Falls and Redondo Campgrounds, and the Las Conchas Trail, which remain closed. The Valles Caldera National Preserve is open. The Gilman Tunnel is closed for repair.

Crews on the fireline yesterday anticipate minimal fire activity. Firefighters continued mop-up and fire suppression repair, working to remove signs of suppression activity and prevent erosion.

The uncontained section of the perimeter in the southeastern corner of the fire near Los Griegos Peak is a patch of standing dead trees left by the 2011 Las Conchas fire. Fluctuating winds may cause them to fall near or on roadways. Firefighters are monitoring this area, which has been holding and is not expected to grow.

A historic wooden phone box from the 1920s-30s era was found on Los Griegos Peak, and was historically used to report fires to the Jemez Ranger Station.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.