SANTA FE, NM –Work continues on the lightning-caused Deer Creek and Ojitos Fires on the Jemez and Coyote Ranger Districts, respectively, on the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF).
The Deer Creek Fire on Peggy Mesa is holding at 140 acres within a planning area of 1,022 acres. Fire crews finished the prep work along the perimeter of the fire on Friday. The local area received some precipitation on Saturday which delayed firing operations for Sunday. However, fire managers hope to take advantage of drying conditions and a favorable window to begin aerial ignitions today. Depending on their progress, fire operations on the Deer Creek Fire could be completed by the end of the day.
Smoke from the Deer Creek fire will be visible today. A smoke monitoring system is in place on Jemez Pueblo and will be used to monitor air quality throughout fire operations. Heavy fire traffic is expected on the south end of Forest Road 376, and motorists are urged to use caution while driving through the staging area.
The Ojitos Fire is at 2,900 acres within a planning area of 7,610 acres on the boundary of the Chama River Canyon Wilderness. Fire crews continue to put hand line in on Mesa Camino which is adjacent to both private land and the wilderness area. Firing operations have been delayed due to heavy precipitation over the last few days. With a drying trend in the forecast, aerial ignitions may begin as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday this week, which will increase the volume of visible smoke.
The top priority on all wildland fire is firefighter and public safety. The decreased complexity of managing a natural ignition for resource benefit reduces the risk and gives forest managers greater control over fire effects.
Historically, low-intensity wildfires burned through southwestern dry conifer forests like the SFNF every seven to 15 years on average as part of a natural cycle that removed leaf litter, eradicated disease and thinned the understory, making room for new growth. Managing a lightning-caused fires like the Deer Creek Fire and Ojitos Fires by using low-intensity fire on the ground mimics that natural process.
Smoke from both fires will be monitored to ensure that the New Mexico Environment Department’s Air Quality Bureau regulations are being met. Smoke-sensitive individuals and those with respiratory or heart disease should take precautionary measures. Information on air quality and your health is available online at the New Mexico Department of Health’s website at https://nmtracking.org/fire.