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Maintenance Burn Plan, Winter 2015 

winter fire

To continue to reduce the threat of wildfire in Los Alamos, the Los Alamos Fire Department, in cooperation with the Santa Fe National Forest, plans to conduct a series of pile burning operations this winter. Burning is planned any window of favorable weather conditions between January 9, 2015 and March 30, 2015.


Update, January 30, 2015 1:00 PM:  

Pile burn operations may continue on January 31 and February 1, 2015.

Depending on the weather, pile burning may continue this weekend. It will be a small operation at three possible locations. About 25 piles remain on the North Bayo Bench directly below Obsidian Loop. About 40 piles are located in Barrancas Canyon on the shelf just below Navajo. And if conditions permit, the crew may begin burning the 150 piles in Gonzales Canyon between Camino Encantado and Barranca Road.

If the operation happens, burning would take place on Saturday January 31 and Sunday February 1.

Call the Los Alamos Fire Department Wildland Chief Ramon Garcia at 695-6729 for more information.

Burned pile pits and burning piles

Burned piles and burning piles, January 28, 2009

  • Burning slash piles in thinned forest areas on Los Alamos County Open Space


Additional proposed locations for 2014-2015:

  • 12 acres in Pueblo Canyon below the airport
  • 5 acres in Pueblo Canyon below Villa Street
  • 70 acres in Bayo Canyon below Barranca Mesa
  • Up to 60 acres in Barrancas Canyon below Navajo, Totavi, and Los Pueblos

    Canyon Burn

During periods of favorable weather between January 9, 2015 and March 30, 2015. Piles will be burned when smoke dissipation is favorable and humidity is high. With favorable weather, burning will take place on up to 10 days. To avoid continued smoke in individual neighborhoods, crews will limit the number of burn days in each canyon to no more than five.


Los Alamos Fire Department, Santa Fe National Forest wildland firefighters


In areas thinned by the Fuel Mitigation Project, dead and down wood has been cut and piled. The remaining fuel poses a threat of firebrands (glowing embers) that could be launched into adjacent neighborhoods during a wind-driven wildfire.


How is maintenance burning different from prescribed burning?

In prescribed burns, the purpose is often to kill live, standing trees. The County’s maintenance burns are designed to reduce fuel on the surface: grass, pine needles, and dead and down wood. The purpose is to reduce the potential for rapid fire spread that might launch a shower of embers into adjacent neighborhoods.

In a broadcast burn, fire is applied to grass, pine needles, and leaf litter. Flame height is generally less than three feet. Pile burning is a series of isolated stacks of burning woody debris. The chance of fire spread, especially with snow on the ground, is minimal.

How about the smoke generated by the burns?

Burning on County Open Space has taken place during each of the past six winters. Several factors reduce the volume of smoke: the piles are dry and burn quickly, only a small number of piles are burned at one time, and every effort is made to burn under conditions that lift the smoke straight up before it drifts over the landscape. Burning will take place between 8 AM and 3 PM. Anyone concerned about smoke can ask to receive a phone call the evening before the burns so that they may make plans to avoid the smoky area (contact the Fire Department at 662-8301).

 Additional Information

Information About the Los Alamos County Prescribed Burns
Long-term Planning for Wildfire Protection
Links to More Information
Contact Information
Open Space Specialist 
Craig Martin 
505 663-1776