LINCOLN COUNTY, N.M. (KRQE) – A wildfire that was started by lightning in the Lincoln National Forest on August 3 is helping clear overgrown fuels and debris in the area, according to the Forest Service.

Crews from the Smokey Bear Ranger District are allowing the West Mountain Fire to move naturally across the landscape and are using a “confine and contain” strategy to help manage overall forest health, stated a news release from Amanda Fry, public affairs officer for Lincoln National Forest on Tuesday.

“Management of naturally-ignited wildfires can protect critical infrastructure, improve watersheds and wildlife habitat, as well as help protect culturally-sensitive areas from future high-severity wildfires,” the U.S. Forest Service said in a news release.

The West Mountain Fire is burning on the north side of West Mountain, near Forest Service Road 616. Smoke will be visible from Ruidoso, Capitan, and along Highway 246. There are no closures or structures at risk, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

West Mountain Fire

  • Start Date: August 3
  • Location: Capitan Mountains, northeast of Capitan, on West Mountain
  • Containment: 0%
  • Size: 625 acres
  • Structures Threatened: None
  • Structures Burned: None
  • Evacuations: No
  • Cause: Lightning
  • Total Personnel: 45
  • Area Vegetation: Pinyon and juniper
  • Ownership(s): NA

KRQE News 13 spoke to Fry about wildfires. She said Lincoln National Forest hasn’t seen a lot of wildfire activity this year, but it has seen an uptick in lightning-caused fires. “So, for wildfires, they are just part of a natural cycle in the forest right, so 100% prevention isn’t always gonna be possible,” Fry said.

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Prescribed burns, which are planned fires by a team of fire experts under specified weather conditions, can also be used to help the forest, Fry explained. “What we can do is we can take steps such as these prescribed burns. We can, you know, clear dense fuels and dead trees, dead and downed trees in the area, and we can do all of that to kind of mitigate the risk for a full-blown very large, large fire in the future,” said Fry.

More information can be found here.