White Fire Burned Area Treatments

Ruidoso Downs, N.M. (June 28, 2011) As the communities of Ruidoso Downs and Ruidoso begin to see early monsoonal rain patterns, most of the projects and treatments planned as part of the burned area emergency response effort have been completed ahead of schedule. The current focus is two-fold: to complete remaining activities and to prepare for potential emergencies that may result from flooding and runoff in the White Fire area.

On June 25, Lincoln National Forest, Smokey Bear Ranger District completed aerial application of straw mulch to 1800 acres of burned lands previously treated with grass seed. Erosion control structures are still being constructed in selected drainages and canyons to catch large debris such as rocks and tree limbs, and to slow runoff of water and sediment downstream.

The City of Ruidoso Downs and Lincoln County have worked cooperatively to build numerous diversion ditches and install over 200 concrete barriers in areas that have been identified as being at risk. Sand bags are available at the City of Ruidoso Downs public works yard at 100 Mystery Drive and the public may stop by anytime to pick them up for use on their private property. Technical assistance to help with the placement of sand bags is also being provided to residents and property owners by Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Many local residents and property owners have played important roles in this emergency response effort and their support and cooperation is greatly appreciated.

Although a substantial amount of work has been completed in the White Fire area, there is no way to guarantee that your property will not be affected. Most of the land within the White Fire area sustained severe burn, which means there is little to no vegetation left to stop the water and debris from flowing down to private property and into the Rio Ruidoso. Grass will become established on National Forest lands with some moisture, and it will stabilize the soil and slow runoff. However, it will take time – even years – before enough vegetation returns to substantially reduce risks from flooding and rock slides.

Roads and highways are likely to be affected and may be closed without notice due to flooding or runoff. All residents and visitors to the area should remain alert especially during rains, and should be ready to move themselves, their families and their animals to higher ground in the event of a flood.

The National Weather Service and Lincoln County emergency personnel are prepared to issue flood warnings and take other measures as necessary to provide for public safety. NM State Police and NM National Guard will also provide support and assistance in the event of an emergency.

The Lincoln National Forest and the White Fire area remain closed to the public until further notice.