Valles Caldera National Preserve Plans Winter Prescribed Burns

Snowy scene from the Valles Caldera National Preserve. Photo Courtesy NPS


The National Park Service plans to implement prescribed burn projects in Valles Caldera National Preserve between early November and the end of the winter season when conditions allow. The prescribed burns will occur in previously thinned areas where materials have been piled for burning. The burn operations will be completed in phases over several days depending on weather and fuel conditions.

The purpose of these burns is to reduce hazardous fuels and the chance for future high-intensity wildfires. The planned pile burn projects are located within the preserve on South Mountain (980 acres), Cerro Seco (525 acres), Cerro San Luis (670 acres), Valle San Antonio (10 acres), Banco Bonito (2 acres), and an area along New Mexico State Route 4 on the east side of the preserve (22 acres).

Because of the location and elevation, smoke from these burns may be visible from all directions coming into the Jemez Mountains, including La Cueva, Sierra Los Pinos, Jemez Springs, Jemez Pueblo, Cañon, Gilman and Los Alamos. Smoke may linger for a few days after each burn.

A final decision on whether to proceed with a specific prescribed burn will depend on multiple conditions, including the national wildland fire preparedness level and resource availability, fuel moisture levels, air quality and forecasted weather. The National Park Service will also take a risk-informed approach to managing prescribed fire during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prescribed fire is part of a science-based framework for managing ponderosa pine and dry mixed-conifer forests in the preserve to reduce the risk of high-severity wildfire and allow low-intensity fire to play its natural role in a frequent-fire ecosystem. Each prescribed burn is designed to meet specific objectives and will be managed with firefighter and public safety as the first priority.

The National Park Service manages prescribed fires in compliance with New Mexico state regulations on air quality and smoke management. Smoke-sensitive individuals and people with respiratory problems or heart disease are encouraged to take precautionary measures.Information on air quality and protecting your health can be found online at the New Mexico Department of Health Environmental Public Health Tracking website. Information on the Forest Stewards Guild’s HEPA Filter Loan Program is available here.

All fire updates will be posted on the preserve’s website, Twitter @VallesCalderaFacebook page and New Mexico Fire Information websiteSmoke-sensitive individuals may also be added to the preserve’s notification system by contacting e-mail us or 575-829-4100, option 3.

About Valles Caldera National Preserve
About 1.25 million years ago, a spectacular volcanic eruption created the approximately 13-mile wide circular depression now known as the Valles Caldera. The preserve is known for its huge mountain meadows, abundant wildlife, and meandering streams. The area also preserves the homeland of ancestral native peoples and embraces a rich ranching history. Visit us at

About the National Park Service
More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 410 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Visit us, on,, and