Santa Fe residents concerned over prescribed burn

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SANTA FE, N.M. – Plans for one prescribed burn are now on hold after people who live nearby voiced some concerns.

The U.S. Forest Service says it’s been planning a burn northeast of Santa Fe, in the Santa Fe National Forest. 

But, there are quite a few homes off that main road – Hyde Park. People who live there told KOB 4 they think that fire would be too close.

On top of that, there’s road work right now on Hyde Park Road, and some worry that would make an evacuation difficult on the only road out of that area.

KOB 4 know plans have been moving forward on a few prescribed burns in the area.

The Santa Fe New Mexican took pictures of crews out near Hyde Memorial State Park thinning trees and brush last week. They were making a containment line for the burn.

A U.S. Forest Service spokesperson says they just decided to delay this burn. They say conditions did not meet their criteria.

They say they won’t do it until next year at the earliest, and they’ll know when in the next few days. 

In the meantime, they plan on starting one of two other prescribed burns in northern New Mexico this weekend, in the areas of Rincon or west of Jemez Springs.

These prescribed burns are meant to clear out vegetation and debris and prevent wildfires. 

But this comes one year after the devastating Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire which destroyed nearly 400 homes across five counties in northern New Mexico. FEMA is still taking applications about damages.

That massive fire was caused by two prescribed burns from the U.S. Forest Service.

Since then, the agency has said it has made policy changes for stricter safeguards, including how they monitor potential problem areas during burns.

“Well, I would say we are all on high alert based on what’s happened,” said Matt Rau, a fire staff officer for the Cibola National Forest and National Grassland.

Fire officials stress how important these intentional burns are for our state.

“It’s just critical. I just can’t stress this enough. These ecosystems are all dependent on fire to stay healthy,” said Rau. “We have forest health that’s in decline. It’s the only way we’re going to restore the health to our forest systems. We all want the same thing. We want healthy forests.”