Reconstructing the Path of a Wildfire: A Day with New Mexico Fire Investigators

By: Scott Chalmers, Law Enforcement Officer, New Mexico State Forestry

In the Pecos Basin of southeast New Mexico, a land of empty prairie crossed by a rectangular network of straight roads, the Pecos River threads its way past Roswell on its slow journey to the Rio Grande. Here, the Pecos meanders from side to side across a wide and shallow basin.

Just east of Roswell, Tobias Lucero and I were standing on a bank of the Pecos River, looking out over a former channel that had become separated from the main flow of water. In spring, fish and wildlife seek refuge in these wetlands, where they can spawn and find food. Three days earlier, this landscape had been mostly green.

When we arrived, however, it was burned so thoroughly that it looked as if it may as well have all combusted in an instant. But to Lucero and me, the river bank and what remained around it held all the clues needed to pinpoint the origin and cause of the Patterson Fire, which had threatened ten homes along the river and burned nearly a thousand acres of farmland in May.

Behind many fires, an investigator and a spark

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire; and by extension, fire investigators. My job is to conduct fire investigations for the Forestry Division of New Mexico’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department. This agency serves the people of New Mexico in many important ways: one of these is to extinguish wildfires that arise on some 43 million acres of state and private lands. It’s a big responsibility. But fire doesn’t always respect administrative boundaries, so firefighters often work together to get the job done. For example, Lucero is a fire investigator working for Bernalillo County; today, he is my partner and mentor.

The investigator’s job is to identify an origin, a cause and a responsible party. And as fires grow larger and more costly to control, their work is becoming more important than ever. In 2011, the Las Conchas Fire burned more than 150,000 acres in north-central New Mexico and cost $48.5 million to put out. It’s up to the wildfire investigator, among others, to decide who gets the bill.

An investigator is part detective and part scientist. They collect and analyze data, test hypotheses, and, until they conclude otherwise, treat every fire as potential arson. Any investigator will tell you, however, that most fires start by accident. There are four basic directions the results of a fire investigation can lead:

· Administrative action to recover firefighting expenses.

· Civil claims to recover firefighting expenses and/or property damage.

· Criminal prosecution.

· To assist in policy development, implementation of fire prevention programs, and pre-fire planning.

Interpreting burn patterns is key to reconstructing a fire’s path

With each new fire, New Mexicans are asking themselves: How did this happen? Walking along the Pecos River, Lucero and I were thinking about three things: weather, topography and fuels. These are the main ingredients of fire behavior, and they form the context within which the investigator considers how a fire ignited and spread.

Our first step was to follow the footprints that the fire left behind as it traveled across the landscape. Only after an investigator has tracked a fire back to its source will he begin searching for clues of the cause. The cause is often something subtle: a cigarette dropped in dry grass, or a fleck of carbon expelled from a car tailpipe.

Lucero and I examined a grove of scorched trees growing on the riverbank. Usually, a fire consumes what burns easily and spares what does not. Here, the fire had grown larger as it advanced; the backsides of the trees were burned more heavily than the fronts.

In front of the trees, a round stone lay wedged in the ground. Behind the stone, some unburned grass had survived; in front of it, scorched earth. As the fire advanced on the stone, it diverged, like a stream flowing around a boulder.

Continuing past the stone, islands of green grass stood out against the black earth. Here and there, a small bush had survived the flames; its yellowed leaves were curled inward toward the heat source. Leaf curls are caused by more mild, slower-moving burns. Picking our way through the scorched landscape, carefully and deliberately, Lucero and I reconstructed the fire’s overall burn pattern.

As wildfires in New Mexico become more frequent and costly to control, the investigator’s work is becoming more important than ever. As it happens, the Patterson Fire wasn’t caused by a person at all: rather, it was lightning. A cloud-to-ground lightning strike generates heat approaching 54,000 degrees Fahrenheit—which is five times hotter than the surface of the sun. One lightning strike, we concluded, found its way into a patch of dry grass, igniting a small fire that likely smoldered for a couple of hours until the wind picked up. Then it was off to the races.

Further Reading

NFPA 921, Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations 2017. National Fire Protection Association, 2017. Print.

Guide to Wildland Fire Origin and Cause Determination 2016. National Wildfire Coordinating Group, 2016. Print.

 
The Patterson Fire burns along the Pecos River near Roswell, New Mexico on May 16, 2019. New Mexico State Parks photo by Joe Desjardins.

The Patterson Fire burns along the Pecos River near Roswell, New Mexico on May 16, 2019. New Mexico State Parks photo by Joe Desjardins.

 
A wildfire exhibits many areas of progression. Each area burns with varying intensity and will leave indicators that display a distinct vector characteristic. National Wildfire Coordinating Group diagram.

A wildfire exhibits many areas of progression. Each area burns with varying intensity and will leave indicators that display a distinct vector characteristic. National Wildfire Coordinating Group diagram.

 
Fire investigation students place color-coded pin flags like the red, yellow and blue ones in this picture to indicate which direction the fire was moving at a given point. Next, they will search the origin area for physical evidence of an ignition source. New Mexico State Forestry photo by Scott Chalmers.

Fire investigation students place color-coded pin flags like the red, yellow and blue ones in this picture to indicate which direction the fire was moving at a given point. Next, they will search the origin area for physical evidence of an ignition source. New Mexico State Forestry photo by Scott Chalmers.

 
An example of a fire direction indicator: protection occurs when fuels are shielded from heat damage. Grasses in front of the rock (bottom) seen in this picture were fully exposed to the fire’s advance movement and show a clean burn line. Grasses behind the rock (top) were protected. National Wildfire Coordinating Group photo.

An example of a fire direction indicator: protection occurs when fuels are shielded from heat damage. Grasses in front of the rock (bottom) seen in this picture were fully exposed to the fire’s advance movement and show a clean burn line. Grasses behind the rock (top) were protected. National Wildfire Coordinating Group photo.

 
Curling occurs when green leaves curl inward toward the heat source. This usually occurs with slower moving, lighter burns associated with backing and lateral fire movement. National Wildfire Coordinating Group photo.

Curling occurs when green leaves curl inward toward the heat source. This usually occurs with slower moving, lighter burns associated with backing and lateral fire movement. National Wildfire Coordinating Group photo.

Santa Fe Reporter Cover Story About the Role of Prescribed Fire in Forest Restoration, Risk Reduction, and Climate Resilience

The water for cities throughout the west originates in forested watersheds that rely on fire as a key ecological disturbance to maintain their function and resilience. The cover story in the most recent edition of the Santa Fe Reporter asks the question, “Does water depend on fire too?”

You can read the article, Prescribed Protection: Why fire holds the keys to securing fresh water and adapting to a changing climate on the Santa Fe Reporters website

Multi-jurisdictional Prescribed Fire Planned for Cerro Del Aire Collaborative Forest Restoration Project Landscape.

NEWS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 07, 2019

Contact:         Eytan Krasilovsky, 505-470-0185, eytan@forestguild.org or Esmé Cadiente, 505-470-0032, esme@forestguild.org

Multi-jurisdictional Prescribed Fire Planned for Cerro Del Aire Collaborative Forest Restoration Project Landscape.

Santa Fe, NM – The Forest Stewards Guild (FSG), working closely with the New Mexico State Land Office (SLO) and the Taos Field Office (TFO) of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), have been preparing the multi-jurisdictional Cerro del Aire landscape, located 7 miles from Tres Piedras, NM, for a prescribed burn since 2016.

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This Collaborative Forest Restoration Program project is aimed at protecting soil integrity, maintaining forest health and reducing wildfire risk to nearby communities. The checker-boarded ownership of the land in the project area makes implementing forest restoration, prescribed fire, and managed wildfire challenging. A solution for land managers like the SLO and the TFO is to coordinate their treatments, and work together toward the shared goal of increasing forest health and creating resilient forests and communities in Northern New Mexico.

The forests in the Cerro Del Aire landscape are adapted to fire and need low-intensity burns to remain healthy and reduce the risk of a catastrophic wildfire that could threaten nearby communities. A prescribed burn is planned for this week with ignitions beginning on Tuesday, October 8th (weather dependent). The burn team will be led by the BLM and will be comprised of qualified wildland firefighters from the SLO, FSG and the BLM. In addition, the Forest Stewards Fire and Fuels Youth Crew will aid in the operations. This crew is part of a program that prepares participants for careers in natural resource management by providing them with training, certifications and hands-on experience. The youth are qualified to National Wildfire Coordinating Group wildland firefighting standards.

Smoke will be closely monitored during the burn in compliance with the NM Environment Department’s Air Quality Bureau standards. Smoke may settle overnight in the surrounding areas including Tres Piedras, Carson, Pilar, Taos, Lama, and Questa but should disperse the following morning.  Smoke-sensitive individuals can borrow a HEPA filter for use in their homes for the duration of the burn from the Forest Stewards Guild at no cost. Information on smoke, human health, and the HEPA Filter Loan Program can be accessed here, https://facnm.org/smoke#smokeanchor5.   

For more information call/text 505-470-0185.

New Directory for FACNM!

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We’re happy to announce a new directory interface for Fire Adapted Communities New Mexico! We are adding more functionality as we go, so please send your feedback of what would make the directory more functional for you! Contact sam@forestguild.org

Go check it out at: www.facnm.org/directory

New Features:

Search

You can now search by name, key word, or location by clicking the Search button in the top left. For example, you can now search for all FACNM members within 25 miles of Albuquerque (there are 7!). We are working to add more ways to search, such as by profession.

Connect

To connect with a FACNM Member click the “Connect” button below their profile. This will allow you to send an email to them through the directory, and they will be able to reply to you directly. As a member, this keeps your email secret but allows people to connect with you.

Map

The map shows where FACNM members are located! We are working to add more functionality to the map.

Update your profile! Click the EDIT button

If you were already in the directory your profile has been moved over, but you are now able to add a photo or update your profile at any time by clicking the “Edit” button in the top right above the Map and entering the email that you originally signed up with.  Then select your account and add a photo or change your information.

Join as a Member! Click the “Add” button

If you haven’t joined the directory click the “Add” above the map and create an account. Make sure when you select a location to click on the address suggested by Google to be placed on the map.

Living with Fire: Do You Know What it Takes to Survive Wildfire?

This information was adapted from Fire Adapted Communities: The Next Step in Wildfire Preparedness,  publication #SP-11-01, with permission from University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and the Living With Fire Program

By: Teresa Rigby, BLM Fire Mitigation and Education Specialist; Gabe Kohler; Forest Stewards Guild Program Coordinator

Fire adapted communities are located within fire prone areas, but require little assistance from firefighters during a wildfire. Residents of these communities accept the responsibility for living in an area with high fire hazard. They have the knowledge and skills to:

1.     Prepare their homes and property to survive wildfire.

2.     Evacuate early, safely, and effectively.

3.     Survive, if trapped by wildfire.

As the impacts of wildfires increase throughout New Mexico and worldwide, preparedness can make the difference between irreplaceable loss of life and property and escaping with the people and things that we value most. Faced with this increasing risk of wildfire, New Mexico’s local, state and federal firefighting agencies have come together to promote Living With Fire FAC concepts. This approach emphasizes the effectiveness of community action over individual, isolated efforts to decreasing wildfire risk.

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With all the moisture we in New Mexico throughout 2019, and the vegetation growth that came with it, we can expect fire hazard to increase as this new vegetation dries out. So even in times when the air is clear of wildfire smoke and there is still water in our creeks and streams, it is important that we do not get complacent. Getting your neighbors or friends together, popping some popcorn, and discussing these concepts in the comfort and safety of the fire off-season may create space for more productive discussion then times when stress levels are high and we feel our options are limited. If you or someone in your community needs ideas about how to start these kinds of conversations, please contact Gabe Kohler at gabe@forestguild.org. For popcorn recipes click HERE. You got this!!

This post summarizes key concepts from the Living With Fire guide. To view the full guide click HERE. These concepts reflect the combined experience of hundreds of firefighters, and are sure to make you look like a wildfire mitigation expert when you unveil them to your neighbors.

Community Protection

Use these Living With Fire concepts to engage your community in wildfire preparedness 

Fuelbreak: A fuelbreak is a strip of land where highly flammable vegetation is removed to reduce the wildfire threat. Fuelbreaks change fire behavior by slowing it down, reducing the length of fames and preventing the fire from reaching tree canopies. Fuelbreaks can improve the success of fire retardant dropped from the air, provide a safer area for firefighters to operate and allow for easier creation of firelines (a strip of bare ground established during a wildfire). Shaded and greenstrip are types of fuelbreaks. Community fuelbreaks are particularly effective when integrated with the defensible space of adjacent homes. They can be manmade or naturally occurring (rock outcrops, rivers and meadows).

Safe Area: A safe area is a designated location within a community where people can go to wait out a wildfire. Often, safe areas are ball fields, irrigated pastures, parks and parking lots.

Access

Use these Living With Fire concepts to engage your community in wildfire preparedness

Address: The home address should be readily visible from the street. The address sign should be made of reflective, noncombustible material with characters at least 4 inches high.

Gated Driveways: Electronically operated driveway gates require key access for local fire departments and districts.

Turnarounds: Homes located at the end of long driveways or dead-end roads should have turnaround areas suitable for large fire equipment. Turnarounds can be a cul-de-sac with at least a 45-foot radius or a location suitable for a 3-point turn.

Turnouts: Homes located at the end of long, narrow streets and dead ends can deter firefighters and complicate evacuation. If possible, create turnouts in the driveway and access roads that will allow two-way traffic. 

Driveway Clearance: Remove flammable vegetation extending at least 10 feet from both sides of the driveway. Overhead obstructions (overhanging branches and power lines) should be removed or raised to provide at least a 13½-foot vertical clearance.

Secondary Road: When communities only have one way in and out, evacuation of residents while emergency responders are arriving can result in traffic congestion and potentially dangerous driving conditions. A second access road, even one only used for emergency purposes, can improve traffic flow during a wildfire and provide an alternate escape route.

Street Signs: Street signs should be posted at each intersection leading to your home. Each sign should feature characters that are at least 4 inches high and should be made of reflective, noncombustible material.

Bridges and Culverts: Inadequately built bridges and culverts may prevent firefighting equipment from reaching your home. Ask your local fire marshal about proper bridge and culvert design for your area.

Road Width and Grade: Roads should be at least 20 feet wide and long driveways should be at least 12 feet wide with a steepness grade of less than 12 percent.

Defensible Space

Use these Living With Fire concepts to engage your community in wildfire preparedness

Wildland Fuel Reduction Area: This area usually lies beyond the residential landscape area and is where sagebrush, cheatgrass, piñon and other wild plants grow. Within this area:

·      Remove all dead vegetation (dead shrubs, dried grass and fallen branches).

·      Thin out thick shrubs and trees to create a separation between them.

·      Prevent ladder fuels by removing low tree branches, and removing or pruning any shrubs under the tree.

Noncombustible Area: Create a Noncombustible Area at least 5 feet wide around the base of your home. This area needs to have a very low potential for ignition from flying embers. Use irrigated herbaceous plants (lawn, ground cover and flowers), rock mulches, or hard surfaces (concrete, brick and pavers) in this area. Keep it free of woodpiles, wood mulches, dead plants, dried leaves and needles, flammable shrubs (sagebrush and juniper) and debris.

Lean, Clean and Green Area: For a distance of at least 30 feet from the home, there should be a lean, clean and green area. Lean indicates that only a small amount of flammable vegetation, if any, is present within 30 feet of the house. Clean means there is no accumulation of dead vegetation or flammable debris within the area. Green denotes that plants located within this area are kept healthy, green and irrigated during fire season. For most homeowners, the lean, clean and green area is the residential landscape. This area often has irrigation, contains ornamental plants and is routinely maintained.

Built Environment

Use these Living With Fire concepts to engage your community in wildfire preparedness

Eaves: Embers can accumulate under open eaves and enter the attic through gaps in construction materials. Covering the underside of the eaves with a soft, or boxing in the eaves, reduces the ember threat. Enclose eaves with fiber cement board or 5/8-inch-thick, high-grade plywood. If enclosing eaves is not possible, fill gaps under open eaves with caulk.  

Exterior Siding: Wood products (boards, panels and shingles) are common siding materials. However, they are combustible and not good choices for fire-prone areas. Noncombustible siding materials (stucco, brick, cement board and steel) are better choices. If using noncombustible siding materials is not feasible, keep siding in good condition and replace materials in poor condition.  

Windows and Skylights: Windows are one of the weakest parts of a home and usually break before the structure ignites. This allows burning embers and heat to enter the home, which may lead to internal ignition. Single-pane windows and large windows are particularly vulnerable. In high fire-hazard areas, install windows that are at least double-glazed and that utilize tempered glass for the exterior pane. The type of window frame (wood, aluminum or vinyl) is not as critical. However, vinyl frames should have metal reinforcements. Keep skylights free of pine needles leaves and other debris, and remove overhanging branches. If skylights are to be placed on steep pitched roofs that face large amounts of nearby fuels (a mature pine tree or another house), consider using flat ones constructed of double-pane glass.

Vents: Attic, eave and foundation vents are potential entry points for embers. All vent openings should be covered with 1/8-inch or smaller wire mesh. Another option is to install ember-resistant vents. Do not permanently cover vents, as they play a critical role in preventing wood rot.

Rain Gutters: Rain gutters trap flying embers. Always keep rain gutters free of leaves, needles and debris. Check and clean them several times during fire season.

Chimneys: Chimney and stovepipe openings should be screened with an approved spark arrestor cap.

Roof: Homes with wood-shake or shingle roofs are much more likely to be destroyed during a wildfire than homes with fire-resistant roofs. Consider replacing wood-shake or shingle roofs with a Class-A fire-resistant type (composition, metal or tile). Openings in roofing materials, such as the open ends of barrel tiles, should be plugged to prevent ember entry and debris accumulation. Regardless of the type of roof, including a flat roof, keep it free of fallen leaves, needles and branches.

Firewood: Firewood stacks should be located at least 30 feet from the home. If the stacks are stored uphill from the house, make sure that burning firewood cannot roll downhill and ignite the home. Consider using an ember-resistant firewood cover.

Decks: Decks using wood and wood-plastic materials are often combustible. Keep all deck materials in good condition. As an option, consider using fire-resistant rated materials. Routinely remove combustible debris (pine needles, leaves, twigs and weeds) from the gaps between deck boards and under the deck. Enclosing the sides of the deck may reduce this type of maintenance. Do not store combustible materials under the deck.

Flammable Items: Keep the porch, deck and other areas of the home free of easily combustible materials (baskets, dried flower arrangements, newspapers, pine needles and debris).

Engaging your neighbors in a conversation about how to improve community protection, access, defensible space, and the built environment around your home may make all the difference. By the time wildfire has started, it is too late. It takes leadership and initiative before the fire to save lives and protect property through wildfire adaptation. If you, or someone in your neighborhood has what it takes to develop these leadership skills, please reach out to Fire Adapted Communities New Mexico, and we can help support you in these challenging conversations. For more information email Gabe Kohler at gabe@forestguild.org.  

Additional Resources

 For a toolkit on being a community fire ambassador, check out: Santafefireshed.org/ambassador

 

After the Fire: Low Cost Flooding and Erosion Mitigation Strategies

By: Lindsey Quam, Santa Clara Pueblo Forestry Director and Gabe Kohler, Forest Stewards Guild Program Coordinator

Since wildfire is inevitable, the work to develop fire adapted communities is never done. This is why it’s so important that as a network we discuss strategies for adapting to wildfire before and after the fire. A recent Fire Adapted Communities New Mexico workshop in Santa Clara Pueblo focused on strategies for protecting our communities from flooding and erosion after a wildfire has occurred. Planning for after a wildfire may help shift conversation about wildfire potential from ‘if’ to ‘when’.

On May 24th, Fire Adapted Communities (FAC) leaders and partners from Santa Clara Pueblo in Northern New Mexico, gathered for an interactive workshop. It was a small, close-knit group  with representatives from 4 different organizations including Santa Clara Pueblo Forestry, The Santa Clara Office of Emergency Management, The Forest Stewards Guild, and Padilla Logging. The diverse group of partners and community members were able to productively identify lessons learned from the ongoing response and recovery efforts in Santa Clara Canyon following the 2011 Las Conchas wildfire.

A key goal of the FACNM network is to facilitate peer-to-peer information sharing to empower people to work toward wildfire adaptation in their communities. In addition to highly engineered, state-of-the-art erosion and flooding prevention structures, the pueblo implemented many low-cost structures. These low cost methods were part of a landscape scale effort to mitigate flooding and erosion after the Los Conchas fire, and are powerful tools for response and recovery that can be used to leverage the people-power in any community and make an impact against flooding and erosion before it occurs.

The project area is contained within the Santa Clara Creek Watershed and includes over 32,000 acres, 24 miles of stream, and 5,000 feet of elevation gradient.

The project area is contained within the Santa Clara Creek Watershed and includes over 32,000 acres, 24 miles of stream, and 5,000 feet of elevation gradient.

Stream-first Wildfire Recovery

The Las Conchas wildfire burned more than 150,000 acres adjacent to the community of Santa Clara, and created extreme flooding and erosion in Santa Clara Creek (more info here). Santa Clara Creek is regarded as a sacred source of life to the people of Santa Clara Pueblo,  so the Tribe took a ‘stream-first’ approach to prioritizing natural stream function. Its flood mitigation and restoration design emphasized the use of natural materials as infrastructure, which maximized ecosystem benefits and decreased the cost.

Erosion Control

Erosion control structures were installed in tributaries to stop sediment delivery upstream, minimize head cutting, and aggrade incised channels. The structures used were cost-effective, being built by hand and using on-site materials. The low cost of these methods allowed them to be used broadly throughout the project area, and over 5,300 structures were built in the 26 tributaries since 2014.

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Contour Felling

Felling trees along a horizontal contour is an easy and effective way to keep excess water out of a main drainage. These structures encourage lateral water flow and capture water to contribute to the water table.

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Rockdam

Rocks are positioned to counteract erosion by reducing the velocity of water flow. These structures raise the level of the streambed, and create viable habitat for plants.

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Log Drop

Similar to rock dams, the log acts as a footer that is anchored into the banks of the incised channel. Rocks and dirt are placed upstream of the log and sometimes grass transplants are installed into the structure. These materials collect sediment behind the log structure and provide grade control. The sediment collected often contains organic material and other nutrients needed for healthy plant growth.

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Flow Splitter

These structures divert water flow out of a main incised channel and encourage sheet flow across the surface. These designs are most effective in wide valley bottoms where flow has space to spread and dissipate.

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Zuni Bowl

These structures are constructed at the base of a head-cut. Zuni bowls (originally used by Zuni Pueblo) armor the substrate within the channel, preventing scouring action by water over the long term. The bowl shape acts as an energy dissipater as water flows into the structure, protecting the potentially erosive substrate. The bottom of the bowl also acts as a water harvesting feature which will maintain moisture for long periods.

In New Mexico, where wildfire season is immediately followed by monsoons, planning for flooding and erosion mitigation is crucial to the resilience of our communities in the face of wildfire. Waiting for emergency assistance and outside funding may not be the best strategy for protecting our communities from flooding and erosion. The lost cost methods and materials used in Santa Clara Pueblo may be an important part of your communities after-the-fire toolkit.  

For more information about recovery after-the-fire, check out:

1.   Story map of Santa Clara’s response and recovery efforts to the Las Conchas Wildfire

 https://arcg.is/0HGPHf

2. After the Wildfire NM

https://afterwildfirenm.org/

https://afterwildfirenm.org/post-fire-treatments/treatment-descriptions/channel-treatments

3. The Burned Area Learning Network (BALN) https://www.conservationgateway.org/ConservationPractices/FireLandscapes/FireLearningNetwork/RegionalNetworks/Pages/BALN.aspx

 

Greetings FAC Members!

My first prescribed burn at Fort Union Ranch!

My first prescribed burn at Fort Union Ranch!

Hello Everyone,  

I am relatively new to this work, and would like to introduce myself. My name is Gabe Kohler and I am a recent addition to the Forest Stewards Guild as a program coordinator. As part of my work with the Guild, I am committed to increasing engagement of current FACNM members as well as outreach to new members. I hope my passion and enthusiasm for this work can be a resource to you all. I recently moved to Santa Fe in October from western Oregon where I finished graduate school at the Oregon State University (OSU) College of Forestry. I am fascinated by the deep connections between humans and their natural environment in the face of climate change and forests shaped by the legacy of past management. It is a privilege to work with you all, and I look forward to meeting each of you.

Thank you all for your continued support and engagement with the Fire Adapted Communities network. Some of you have been with this effort from the beginning and have been critical to advancing our relationship with wildfire for decades.

Fire Adapted Communities New Mexico (FACNM) is gaining diverse membership and support across the state and this reflects the ongoing efforts in each of your communities. In both human and natural systems, networks hold potential for adaptation, resilience, and creative problem solving that is greater than the sum of their parts. The FACNM network is no different, and by fostering relationships amongst motivated individuals we hope to catalyze and empower wildfire adaptation in our communities.

If there is anything that FACNM can do to amplify the work you all are doing in your communities of place or interest, please do not hesitate to reach out. I can be reached on my cell at 509-844-3048 or by email at gabe@forestguild.org.

Keep up the good work,

Gabe

Video about how one community's actions to prepare for wildfire stopped the 416 Fire


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In June 2018, when the 416 Fire raged north of Durango, scorching tens of thousands of acres, the Falls Creek Ranch neighborhood, a Firewise USA community, was ready. Residents had prepared for the worst through several years of fire mitigation efforts such as clearing brush and overly dense trees, led by a Neighborhood Ambassador from Wildfire Adapted Partnership based in Southern Colorado and guided by a Community Wildfire Protection Plan. As a direct result of their efforts, firefighters could safely combat the eventual arrival of the fire. No structures were lost!

Watch the video here!


Wildfire Guides for Fire Chiefs and County Officials up on the FAC NM Website.

Two new resources to boost your wildfire preparedness are now up on the FAC NM website.

Fire Chief Wildfire Guide

The WUI Chief’s Guide was designed by fire chiefs for fire chiefs to help provide a better understanding of the wildland-urban interface and the necessary information to help prepare, mitigate, respond, and recover from these events. This guide was put together by a committee of fire chiefs led by Santa Fe New Mexico’s own fire chief Erik Litzenberg.

 

County Leadership Wildfire Guide

The County Leadership Guide to Help Communities Become More Fire Adapted and Learn to Live with Wildland Fire is great resource from our partners at National Association of Counties, Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network, Firewise USA, and Western Region National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy.

This resource provides tips for county leadership, talking points for county leadership pre, during and post fire season, and customizable social media suggestions.



Forest Bound: Free native plant and conservation training

The Santa Fe and Cibola National Forests, in collaboration with the Institute for Applied Ecology, have a great opportunity for youth to learn about native plants in New Mexico.

Ages 13-18

This fun, immersive program examines native plants through a botanical, environmental, and cultural lens. Students enjoy daily, hands-on experiences in the Santa Fe National Forest or Cibola National Forest. They will gain skills such as seed collection and cleaning, plant monitoring, identification, and ethnobotany. They will learn about conservation careers through conversations with professional conservationists and environmental leaders. At the end of the course, students will receive a certification of completion in basic native plant ecology.

Session dates

Santa Fe:

June 17-21

July 22-26 (session full)

Albuquerque:

June 3-7

July 8-12

For more information visit: www.appliedeco.org/get-outdoors

 
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