Sandoval Signpost


An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988
  Public Safety

Smoke overhead—indication of prescribed burns

Signpost Staff

On October 17, the Santa Fe National Forest Fire Management team ignited the San Juan Prescribed Burn located three-to-five miles northeast of Jemez Springs and four-to-eight miles northwest of Ponderosa in the Jemez Ranger District. With favorable conditions, 7,300 acres were successfully treated by both hand and aerial ignitions over a three-day period with burn areas of approximately 2,500 acres per day. Fire managers reported that they had “just the right amount of wind we needed for fire to carry across the forest floor to meet our objectives.”

Smoke from the burn was noticeable as oblique grey clouds that permeated the sky while drifting southeast to Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, Santo Domingo, Cochiti Pueblo, Bernalillo, and Placitas. According to the Forest Service, the emissions from prescribed burns are monitored to be in compliance with New Mexico air quality regulations. The Forest Service states that smoke from prescribed fires is considerably less—and with a shorter duration—than smoke from wildfires, which can burn for weeks or months at a time. The New Mexico Department of Health advised residents living near the fire to keep their windows closed during the burn period and offered a help line on how to minimize health impacts from smoke: 1-888-878-8992 or visit:

Fire managers plan to continue prescribed burning the following week of another 1,350 acres in the Cuba Ranger District, ten miles northwest of Jemez Springs and south of the Chaparral Girl Scout Camp, was delayed due to forecasted weather conditions. That burn schedule was decided to be determined at a later date.

The Forest Service cite the benefits of these and other prescribed burns:

  • reduces fuels and prevents large wildfires
  • helps plants and trees grow
  • creates diversity needed by wildlife
  • is more efficient than mechanical treatments
  • breaks up continuous fuels
  • prepares the land for new growth

The majority of these burn areas have been treated with prescribed fire before, except for one small block. This type of burn is known as a maintenance burn.

For further information on prescribed fires in the area, the public can obtain information by calling the Santa Fe National Forest Fire Management Hotline at 1-877-971-FIRE or by visiting:

Preparing for winter in a Firewise way

—Rev. Ken Cuthbertson, Placitas Firewise Steering Committee

Over the last several months there have been several articles in the Signpost written by Michael Crofoot concerning the danger of wildfire in the Placitas area, and the efforts of the Placitas Firewise community group. This month seems like a good time to turn to some fairly simple things to think about, and do, as we prepare our homes for winter.

A basic fact about wildfire is that it moves quickly, and that more structural fires are kindled by falling embers than by the wildfire itself. In either case, fire needs access to a fuel source to kindle. So, the key is to do what can be done to keep fire and fuels apart from one another.

One of the impressive things about much of the Firewise literature is that it gives so many common sense suggestions about what individual property owners can do to reduce risk to their homes and property. Here are a few examples:

1) Make sure woodpiles and other potential fuel sources, such as flammable mulch, are a safe distance away from the side of buildings—propane tanks, too.

2) Clean chimneys regularly and have a good spark arrestor in place.

3) Make sure gutters, eaves, and roofs are clear of flammable debris, such as pine needles. Also check under decks and other areas up against buildings where debris may collect.

4) Prune trees and shrubs so that ground-level fires will be less likely to spread upward, especially those plants closer to structures. Remove dead trees, and overly dense vegetation. With new plantings, choose less flammable (resinous, oily, or waxy) plants.

5) Be mindful of what is needed for emergency access to the property. House numbers need to be clearly visible. Driveways need to be sufficiently wide and have turning space for firetrucks, and so on.

These are just a few suggestions out of many. The Firewise printed materials and website ( provide suggestions on construction, landscaping, and other factors to bear in mind. Each bit we do helps make the whole community safer.

Placitas Firewise Community meetings are held every other Thursday (November 1, 15, and 29) at 10:00 a.m. in the Collin meeting room of the Placitas Community Library on Hwy 165. All are welcome.

Have a safe and cozy Firewise winter.

Safety for OHV riders

—NM Department of Game and Fish

The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish wants to remind riders to be safe when riding off-highway vehicles (OHV).

OHV riders younger than 18 must: Wear a helmet and eye protection. Have a safety training permit and carry it with them. Safety training permits are available to students who pass one of the OHV training courses available at Have adult supervision while riding if they do not have a driver’s license and never carry passengers. Register their OHV with the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division or have a nonresident permit.

Riders of all ages must: Never ride on a paved road. It is illegal to drive an OHV on paved surfaces, regardless of registration. Register their OHV with the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division or have a nonresident permit. Have a U.S. Forest Service-approved spark arrester and an engine that produces fewer than 96 decibels. Never ride on private property without permission.

For further information, visit: or, or call the New Mexico Off-Highway Vehicle Program at 505-321-0858.

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