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After 36 long days, firefighters have fully contained the Las Conchas Fire, the largest wildland fire in New Mexico's recorded history.
Ignited on June 26, the Las Conchas Fire burned over 156,593 acres, primarily on the Santa Fe National Forest and parts of the Valles Caldera National Preserve, Bandelier National Monument, Pueblos of Jemez, Santa Clara, Cochiti and Santo Domingo, and private lands. Numerous communities were threatened during the incident.
"It's been a tough six weeks," said Maria T. Garcia, Santa Fe National Forest Supervisor. "The successful containment of the Las Conchas Fire is the result of the tremendous involvement and coordination of many people, from many agencies and jurisdictions." During the past month, four National Incident Management Teams coordinated thousands of firefighters and numerous helicopters, engines, tenders, and dozers to bring the wildfire under containment.
Currently, a National Incident Management Organization led by Incident Commander, Dan Kleinman, is overseeing the last of fire suppression and repair on the Las Conchas Fire along with Burned Area Emergency Response activities (BAER). "The greatest outcome is no member of the public or any emergency responders were seriously injured during the fire suppression efforts," Garcia said. "That's attributable to good coordination, training and experience."
The focus now shifts to stabilizing the land and resource impacts within the burned area. BAER teams have already assessed the Las Conchas Fire area and identified treatments that will stabilize soils, and reestablish plant cover by seeding and mulching certain parts of the burned area. In addition, repairs to roads, culverts, and drainage channels will also be applied to protect life, property, and downstream values that may be at risk from flooding and debris flows.
With the increase in monsoon moisture, the Santa Fe National Forest lifted fire restrictions for portions of the Forest and Valles Caldera National Preserve on July 30. The Las Conchas and Pacheco Fire areas will remain in Stage III Fire Closure, while the Jemez Ranger District, portions of the Cuba Ranger District, and the Valles Caldera will implement Stage I Fire Restrictions.