Forest Service to burn 700 acres near Taos Pines, Palo Flechado Pass

Low intensity wildfires like the Hondito Fire southwest of Tres Piedras help the forest's ecology and are cheaper to manage than prescibed burns. Katharine Egli

More than 700 acres of forest in La Jara Canyon, located in the Taos Canyon near Palo Flechado Pass, will be treated with a prescribed burn sometime between Oct. 15 and Nov. 23.

The U.S. Forest Service's Carson National Forest announced the prescribed burn in an Oct. 3 press release, noting that fire specialists on the Camino Real Ranger District are hoping to seize on favorable autumn conditions, such as weather, moisture levels and air quality.

"These units were thinned in 2014 and subsequently utilized as fuelwood areas. The plan is to burn the remaining wood to create defensible space near the communities of Taos Pines and Angel Fire, restore forest health and improve wildlife habitat," according to the release.

Wildland firefighters could take up to a week to finish the burn once they start lighting fires on the landscape.

Up to 709 acres in two different areas will be treated with a broadcast burn, one of the most cost-effective ways to improve the ecological health of forests.

The northern unit is adjacent to Forest Service Road 5 and Taos Pines, a private community with just more than 40 homes. The southern unit is located south of U.S. 64 along the "A1 spur" of the Elliott Barker Trail; the unit extends south to the meadow near Bull Springs, according to the press release.

Ignitions will take place between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to provide adequate time for the smoke to disperse, according to the Carson National Forest. Patrols will take place during the night to make sure the fire holds within the planned perimeter.

"In order to ensure public safety, we discourage the use of a portion of the Elliott Barker Trail that goes from Apache Pass north to the intersection with the loop trail. As an alternative, you may want to consider using the trail system around Angel Fire," the release said.

Smoke may affect areas along U.S. 64, as well as the communities of Angel Fire, Taos Pines, Eagle Nest, Taos Canyon, Black Lake, Valle Escondido and Taos. Smoke-sensitive individuals and people with respiratory or heart diseases are encouraged to take precautionary measures. Information on air quality and protecting your health can be found online at the New Mexico Department of Health's website at .

The Forest Service will host a tour of the planned burn area Saturday (Oct. 14). People interested in taking the tour can meet at Palo Flechado Pass on U.S. 64 at 9:30 a.m. For more information about the prescribed fire or tour, contact the Camino Real Ranger District at (575) 587-2255.

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