Prescribed burn under way in Santa Fe Canyon watershed

April 17, 2019 GMT

Just after 10 a.m. Tuesday, a 40-person crew began dripping diesel fuel onto foliage in the Santa Fe Municipal Watershed, sparking the first prescribed burn of the season.

Forest Service officials say they expect to burn 500 acres in the canyon east of the city by the end of Tuesday, including piles of sheared tree limbs and other forest debris.

By noon, a helicopter loaded with ping-pong balls of potassium permanganate, flew low over the forest, dropping aerial kindling into hard-to-read parts of the Santa Fe National Forest.

Despite high winds over the weekend, conditions appeared optimal for the burn Tuesday near the Nichols Reservoir, according to a press release from the National Forest. In addition to mild temperatures and low winds, the direction of the wind and an expectation of rainfall Tuesday night are expected to reduce smoke impact in Santa Fe.

Still, officials warned that residents in Santa Fe, Eldorado, Tesuque, Pecos and Glorieta are likely to see plumes of smoke, which is expected to settle into lower regions of the city overnight and could linger for up to a week.

The prescribed burn is part of a 10-year plan to improve forest conditions — and protect the region, and its water resources, from a large-scale wildfire — across more than 17,000 acres of the Santa Fe Municipal Watershed.

Officials advised people who are sensitive to smoke to take precautions.