Curiosity got the better of me today, so a driving tour over the recently re-opened section of NM4 through the Las Conchas fire area of the Jemez Mountains was in order. This is an on-going fire currently at 140,000 acres with 40% containment. The part of the landscape visible from the highway nearest the fire’s starting point showed the typical mosaic pattern of wind-driven fire: parts of moonscape completely burned to mineral soil jigsawed with pieces of lightly singed areas, and islands completely untouched by the fire.
Can areas burned in previous fires burn again? Yes–I remembered two hillsides in particular which were burned badly in the Cerro Grande fire 10 years ago. Large Ponderosa Pines were killed by the heat, but not completely burned. Those trees burned rather well in this fire.
Will the forest ever recover? Of course, although it may not look the same. There were singing thrushes, wrens and bluebirds; and grass and some perennials were already sprouting from singed meadows. Some trees will survive in the more lightly burned areas and aspen and oak will re-colonize those places which was more heavily burned.
Curious? When the area is ready for visitors, we’ll be doing fire ecology tours!
(NM4 is currently open to through traffic only–no parking or leaving your vehicle, this is still an active fire area.)