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U.S. Forest Service pauses prescribed fire operations for 90-day review

U.S. Forest Service pauses prescribed fire operations for 90-day review
The Santa Fe National Forest is one of three national forests in New Mexico that have been partially or fully closed due to wildfire activity. The U.S. Forest Service announced all prescribed fire operations in the country are being paused for a 90-day review. Photo courtesy of the Santa Fe National Forest

May 21 (UPI) -- The US. Forest Service announced all prescribed fire operations across the country are being paused due to what Chief Randy Moore identified as "extreme wildfire risk conditions in the field."

Moore said in his Friday announcement that prescribed fire operations on all National Forest System lands would be paused while officials conduct "a 90-day review of protocols, decision support tools and practices."

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The decision comes in the wake of the Hermits Peak Fire in New Mexico, which began as a prescribed fire on April 6 but spread outside of its projected boundary as a result of strong winds. The blaze later combined with Calf Canyon Fire, which started April 19.

The fire had burned more than 300,000 acres as of Thursday morning with 34% containment.

Moore's announcement followed a Friday meeting between federal officials and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. The meeting featured discussion of the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon fire, which has become the largest wildfire in the state's history.

Moore said the 90-day review will help inform the Forest Service's plans for the fall.

"Our primary goal in engaging prescribed fires and wildfires is to ensure the safety of the communities involved. Our employees who are engaging in prescribed fire operations are part of these communities across the nation," Moore said. "The communities we serve, and our employees deserve the very best tools and science supporting them as we continue to navigate toward reducing the risk of severe wildfires in the future."

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