NMSU experts: Three Rivers Fire a ‘wake-up’ call for fire season


NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The Three Rivers Fire continues to burn near Ruidoso and now covers about 7,020 acres and is 23% contained. Now, we’re getting a closer look at what the restoration process will look like and why New Mexico State University experts are calling it a ‘wake-up’ call for New Mexicans.

“It’s a wake-up call because it’s late April. We don’t necessarily want to see a high-intensity fire but if it’s going to occur we like to see it in late May and June instead of late April,” Doug Cram, Forestry and Fire Specialist at NMSU Cooperative Extension Service said.

“It also picked up and ran about 8,000 acres in that first 24 hours. And of course, if it hadn’t been for the rain and snow that came in, it would’ve gotten presumably larger and faster….it’s a wake-up call. This fire season could be difficult for New Mexico,” Cram said.

Cram said the dry weather is partly behind the ominous outlook. He said more treatments like thinning and prescribed burns are needed.

“We’re not trying to get rid of all fire we’re just trying to change the way fire behaves,” Cram said. “There’s sort of this paradigm shift that we’re seeing across the west of understanding that we can’t prevent all fires. So, the more we can be prepared for fires and appreciate some of the impacts may be useful or neutral, and of course, some are not.”

Restoration for the nearby Little Bear Fire is wrapping up after nearly 10 years. KRQE News 13 asked if the process and timeline for this fire could look similar.

“Well, hopefully not. Again, I think the footprint is a little bit smaller. We’ll have to see again what the severity is,” Cram said.

Cram also said a burn severity map will tell what were lower and higher intensity burn areas and which areas will need more attention during restoration.

The Lincoln National Forest said once the fire is more suppressed, a response team will assess the damage and said the restoration will likely include refeeding and addressing any flood risks. In the long-term restoration, they said replanting may be needed.

Cram said the steep terrain of the area around the Three Rivers Fire could make the restoration process more difficult, depending on where high-intensity burns happened.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. For more on NSMU experts’ comments on the fire, visit news.nmsu.edu/2021/04/nmsu-fire,-forestry-experts-say-three-rivers-fire-is-a-wake-up-call.

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