Deer Creek Fire and Other Forest News

By Julie Anne Overton

SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST

 

Fire managers on the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) plan to manage the lightning-caused Deer Creek Fire on Peggy Mesa by using low-intensity fire on the ground to achieve multiple resource benefits.

The Deer Creek Fire started Sept. 15 on Peggy Mesa in the old San Diego prescribed burn area and adjacent to the site of this summer’s lightning-caused Peggy Fire.  Objectives for managing the Deer Creek Fire include:

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Deer Creek Fire Smoke Rises Over the Nascimientos

Photos R.W.

Smoke from the lightning strike caused Deer Creek Fire has now become visible in the southern parts of the Jemez Valley.  It started on Sept. 18 when it was estimated at about eight acres, but has most likely grown by now. No new reports on its progress have yet been posted  on New Mexico Fire Information or the Santa Fe National Forest sites.

The fire is burning on the Jemez Ranger District next to the site of the Peggy Fire.

 

Smoke Rising Over Gilman and Two Other Fires in Santa Fe National Forest

By Julie Anne Overton

SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST

Three lightning-caused fires on the Santa Fe National Forest are putting up visible smoke today as crews keep an eye on the Deer Creek, Beaver Creek, and Ojitos Fires.

A lightning strike on Friday started the Deer Creek Fire, estimated at about eight acres, on the Jemez Ranger District next to the site of the Peggy Fire which started on July 18.  As crews monitor the Deer Creek Fire, which is about 2 miles northwest of the Gilman Tunnels, smoke has been reported from US Highway 550 and may impact the Pueblo of Jemez and the communities of Gilman and Cañon.

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Beaver Creek Fire in the Pecos/Las Vegas Ranger District

By Julie Anne Overton

SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST

Reported: Members of the public reported seeing smoke on Sept. 10, 2017, and the Barillas Fire Lookout Tower confirmed smoke and an approximate location on Sept. 11.

Cause:  Unconfirmed, but lightning is the most probable cause.

Size: Estimated at 1-2 acres.

Location:  On the southeastern edge of the Pecos Wilderness on the Pecos/Las Vegas Ranger District of the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) near Hermit’s Peak and about 4 miles south of the village of Rociada.

Vegetation:  Mixed conifer.

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Large Animals Thrive in the Jemez in Improved Forest Conditions

Video: New Mexico State University. 

An article in the Las Cruces Sun-News explores the results of habitat restoration  through prescribed burns and forest thinning that have been part of the Southwest Jemez Collaborative Landscape Restoration Project.

The study results so far give interesting insights into the changing conditions into the Santa Fe National Forest and Valles Caldera National Preserve in the mountains above us.

The link to the article is here.

 

SFNF Waives Fees for National Public Lands Day; Volunteers Needed for Trail Improvement Projects

By Julie Anne Overton

SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST

The Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) invites you to celebrate National Public Lands Day on the SFNF on Saturday, Sept. 30, by volunteering to work on popular multi-use trails that need a little TLC.  Or, take advantage of the third fee-free day of the year to visit your favorite sites on the forest for free.

National Public Lands Day is the largest single-day volunteer effort for public lands.  Last year, over 200,000 volunteers at 2,600 locations accomplished $18 million in public land improvements.  This year, the SFNF is offering two great opportunities to get outside with friends and family while practicing environmental stewardship:

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Why So Blue

By R.W.

The Sandias as seen from U.S. 550 during the last few days.

There is a fairly contained, small, piñon/juniper wildfire burning nearby, on Borrego Mesa, and a prospect of several prescribed burns later this month on the Española Ranger District, just announced by the Santa Fe National Forest. None of that is, or will be, responsible for the smoke blurring our horizons and creeping into our bedrooms now, and likely to continue doing so through the rest of this Summer and into Fall.

This smoke blowing our way, and across the lower 48, is from the wildfires burning through the Northwest and Midwest, including vast conflagrations in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho,  Montana, Utah and British Columbia.

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Lightning Caused Fire Burning on Borrego Mesa

By Julie Anne Overton , Acting Public Affairs Officer

SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST

Start Date: Sept. 4, 2017

Cause: Lightning

Size:  Approximately 12 acres

Location:  Borrego Mesa on the Jemez Ranger District of the Santa Fe National Forest, approximately 3 miles southeast of Ponderosa and approximately 1 mile north of the northern boundary of Zia Pueblo tribal lands.

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Continental Divide Trail Remains Closed

By Julie Anne Overton

SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST

The Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) has extended the closure of a segment of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) on the Coyote Ranger District to provide for public safety as fire crews continue to work on the Ojitos Fire in the Chama River Wilderness.  The temporary closure is in effect until Dec. 31, 2017, unless it is rescinded earlier.

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The Mighty Bighorn

By Daryl Ratajczak

Wildlife Biologist, Forest Planning Team

SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST

Fragment of photo by Jwanamaker – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28291925

Bighorn Sheep.

I stood motionless, afraid to even blink let alone breathe. His bulbous eye focused on the offcolored rock sitting before him. His 220-pound frame was sleek and well-defined but nothing compared to what it would be in a few months when he bulked up to begin defending his right to breed. The Rocky Mountain bighorn ram standing before me was already a fine specimen, he was soon going to be a fierce competitor as well. Imagining the thunderous clap resounding from his mighty horns as he beat down his rivals, I had little doubt he would maintain his bloodline this coming breeding season.

So went my first encounter with New Mexico’s largest wild sheep. You can imagine my surprise as I learned about this majestic animal and its struggle to maintain a foothold in the rocky and wild places it calls home. As an invited member to a bighorn sheep management meeting, my first priority was to gather as much information about the animal as possible. As a wildlife biologist, I have managed numerous species of big game animals, but this was going to be my first foray with bighorns, therefore, I was quite content letting the experts lead the discussion.

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News from Deep in the Woods

SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST

The Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) expects a large number of visitors for the final holiday weekend of the summer season, but please bear in mind that the (SFNF) Supervisor’s Office and all Ranger District offices will be closed Monday, Sept. 4, 2017, in observance of Labor Day.  Normal business hours will resume on Tuesday, Sept. 5.

This, and other Forest news:

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Gilman Tunnels Are Back

It took a while, somewhat close to what the Forest Service predicted, but at last the tunnels over the Rio Guadalupe have reopened. It is hard to tell what has been removed; I will need to dig deep into my photo archives and do a before-and-after study. A casual glance up above still gives that slightly uncomfortable feeling that any moment a rock will tumble down on me, but then what do I know about the subtle science of granite rock stabilization.

What makes the most impact are the piles of granite lining the sides and the wonderful absence of graffiti. Even the guardrails have been cleaned; let’s hope this lasts for a while.

As good as new, just the rail track missing.

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Santa Fe NF Declares Cow Fire Out

By Dianne Berry

SANTA F E NATIONAL FOREST

Fire managers on the Pecos/Las Vegas Ranger District of the Santa Fe National Forest called the lightning-caused Cow Fire out today at noon.

The fire started on July 18th in slash and dead and down timber within the burn scar of the 2000 Viveash Fire.  Natural drainages and the rocky landscape helped fire crews contain the small fire to around seven acres.  The Cow Fire also received a significant amount of monsoonal moisture.

Smoke should no longer be visible from the Cow Fire, which was located about 6 miles northeast of the village of Pecos.

Fire updates are posted on the New Mexico Fire Information website at nmfireinfo.com, on Twitter @SantaFeNF and www.facebook.com/SantaFeNF. For additional information, contact the Pecos Ranger District at 505.757.6121.

It’s Over. Santa Fe National Forest Completed Operations on the Peggy Fire

Dianne A. Berry 
Acting Assistant Public Affairs Officer
SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST

 

Fire managers on the Santa Fe National Forest completed operations on the Peggy Fire on the Jemez Ranger District over the weekend, using a lightning strike on July 18 to return beneficial fire to the fire-adapted landscape on Peggy Mesa approximately 2 miles northwest of the Gilman Tunnels.

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Peggy Fire Versus Flash Flood

By R.W.

It’s all happening out there if you believe weather forecasts and forest fire updates. What’s there to not believe as we sniff little wafts of smoke in our bedrooms and strain to hear rain pattering on our roofs.

It is quite clear though, that this is a cruel world where some get soaked time and time again, while others stay gasping in the dust. These monsoon-like events are so unevenly distributed where some of us sadly return home with vehicles still dripping from the shower we struggled through with our wipers maxing out on fast to be greeted by a dust devil in the driveway.Continue reading

Smoke from Peggy Fire Still Rises Above the Jemez

Photos R.W.

Smoke from Peggy Fire as seen on NM Highway 4 just north of the schools.

The Peggy Fire, now in ite ninth day, has reached almost 600 acres. Dianne A. Berry, of the Santa Fe National Forest issued this information: “Fire crews took advantage of favorable weather conditions yesterday to make good progress through both ponderosa pine and piñon/juniper vegetation controlled ignitions.  Interior spot fires continue to be moderated by the minimal needle litter and ladder fuels in the San Diego prescribed fire treatment area.  Crews will continue controlled burning operations as conditions allow.”

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Smoke and Bird Updates

Photos R.W.

A brief smoke event with the wind travelling in the same direction as yesterday, but much less fierce, and picking up much less smoke. The Forest Service update tells us that the affected area has grown to 256 acres.

They also include an interesting explanation for yesterday’s photogenic event: “Fire activity was low to moderate throughout the day Saturday until about 5:30 p.m. when a storm cell brought much stronger winds out of the north, drastically increasing fire activity and pushing the fire to the south. The winds also helped create the very visible smoke column in the late afternoon. The blacklining that crews had worked on over the past several days held the fire in spite of the dramatic shift in wind direction and speed. Today, crews on scene continued to blackline the perimeter and look for spot fires. ”

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(Fake) Drama Above and Below and (Illegal Leaks of) Fire and Water

Photos R.W.

Update SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST

The Peggy Fire as seen from a mesa in Red Rocks.

Do not believe what you hear or what you see. You might have read on these pages chilling warnings against life threatening  walls of storm water rushing down arroyos and calm reassurances about low intensity puffs of smoke lingering through the morning. Well…

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Still Smoldering up on Peggy

Photos R.W.

The fire on Peggy Mesa, in its fourth day this Friday is making some slow progress and has grown from 11 acres yesterday to 35 acres today. There have been no more updates from the Forest Service since this morning. The air is pretty still and the smoke appears to be rising and drifting in a northeasterly direction.

Here are a few images of the rising smoke as seen from US Highway 4 this afternoon:

 

 

Peggy Fire Update

By Julie Anne Overton

SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST

The smoke as seen last Tuesday, the day the fire started. Since then there has been some heavy rain in parts of the Jemez Valley, but apparently it did not drench the area, Peggy Mesa, where this low intensity fire continous to smolder.

Update on the Update:    Smoke has increased, with impacts expected in Gilman and Jemez Pueblo. Flame lengths of 1-2 feet are evident.  Afternoon and evening higher humidities continue to moderate the fire activity.  The fire is being monitored with daily patrols.

 

Start Date: July 18, 2017

Cause: Lightning

Size:  Approximately 11 acres

Location: On the Jemez Ranger District of the Santa Fe National Forest, the fire is located on Peggy Mesa approximately 2 miles northwest of Gilman Tunnels.

Vegetation:  The fire is burning in piñon pines, juniper, ponderosa pine, and oak scrub brush.

Current Situation:  A lightning strike ignited a single standing dead tree (snag) that spread the fire into surrounding slash and nearby dead and down timber.  The low-intensity fire is creeping and smoldering.  The fire is in monitor status.

Smoke/Air Quality:  Smoke may be visible from the US Route 550, and NM Hwy 4 at Jemez Pueblo.  It is not generating a lot of smoke or affecting many communities. Individuals sensitive to smoke, as well as those with respiratory or heart disease, are reminded to take precautionary measures.  Air quality information and health protection measures are available online at the New Mexico Department of Health’s website:  https://nmtracking.org/fire.

Fire Information:  Fire updates are posted on the New Mexico Fire Information website at nmfireinfo.com and on @SantaFeNF and www.facebook.com/SantaFeNF.  Additional information can be obtained from the Jemez Ranger District at 575-829-3535.

 

Call to Drone Operators for Situational Awareness

Julie Anne Overton

SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST

Photo Tom Hoefen/USGS, Public Domain.

The annual aerial survey for insect and disease outbreaks on the 1.6- million-acre Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) could begin as early as Monday, July 17, and continue intermittently through Aug. 18.

Forest Service airplanes and helicopters regularly fly over private, state, and National Forest System lands at low altitudes to perform a variety of natural resource management missions, including insect and disease surveys, remote sensing to acquire aerial images and data, and firefighting.Continue reading

Cajete Fire Declared Controlled at Last

SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST

The Cajete Fire on the Santa Fe National Forest’s Jemez Ranger District was declared controlled at 12:45 p.m. Sunday, July 16, thanks to recent moisture that arrived with the monsoon season.  The 1,412-acre Cajete Fire, which started on June 15 from an abandoned campfire, has been 96% contained since June 21. 

Incident command determined that the uncontained 4% of the fire perimeter was not safe for firefighters to enter.  The area near Los Griegos Peak is in the burn scar from the 2011 Las Conchas Fire and still contains multiple hazard trees or “snags” which can fall without warning.  The burn scar held the fire in place without exposing firefighters to unnecessary risk.

The June 20 order which closed all lands, roads and trails within the Cajete Fire perimeter remains in place until July 31, unless it is rescinded earlier.  The closure order includes a segment of the Las Conchas Trail (#137) between the last bridge coming from the Las Conchas Trailhead (before the trail ascends) and the East Fork Trailhead.

Stage 1 Fire Restrictions Lifted

SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST

Thanks to recent precipitation and decreasing fire danger, the Santa Fe National Forest has lifted campfire and smoking restrictions on Friday, July 14, at 8:00 a.m.  The forest implemented Stage 1 fire restrictions on June 23 based on dry conditions and higher-than-normal temperatures.

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Forest Plan Revision Open Houses to Take Place in Santa Fe and Pecos.

SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST

These Open Houses are intended to keep the public involved between our more formal rounds of public meetings and we will keep you informed when we are ready for the next round of evening and technical public meetings. If you can’t make it to an Open House, please call (505-438-5442) or email (santafeforestplan@fs.fed.us) us with any questions.

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Gathering Monsoon Both Decreases and Increases Fire Danger

A couple of lightning caused fires that have broken out currently suggest a different pattern of fire danger emerging. The forests are still dry and ready to ignite at any carelessly flicked cigarette butt or abandoned campfire, but the recent weather has brought with it some increased moisture in the forests together with instances of dry lightning storms.

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Know-Before-You-Go and Celebrate the Fourth in the National Forest

By Julie Anne Overton

SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST

The Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) is ready to welcome the large number of visitors who traditionally celebrate Independence Day weekend in the great outdoors.  But if you decide to take advantage of the recreational opportunities on the SFNF, it’s always good to “Know Before You Go” (https://www.fs.fed.us/visit/know-before-you-go).

The SFNF remains in Stage 1 fire restrictions.  Campfires are allowed only in developed campgrounds and picnic areas with established fire rings and grills.  Smoking is restricted to enclosed vehicles or buildings, developed recreation sites and areas cleared of all flammable materials.  Fire prevention teams will be patrolling, and anyone who violates Stage 1 restrictions will be ticketed.

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They’re Back and This Time They’re Hungry – Tent Caterpillars Munching Aspens Again        

 

By Julie Anne Overton

SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST

If you drive up NM State Highway 475 (the road to the Santa Fe Ski Basin) anytime soon, you will probably notice something going on in the aspen groves that create one of the most popular vistas on the Santa Fe National Forest.

To the casual observer, the aspens may appear to be dying.  But those bare branches signal the return of the western tent caterpillars, native defoliators whose larvae feed on a variety of hardwood trees species.  At least here in New Mexico, they seem to be particularly fond of aspen.

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