Big Tubes Prescribed Burn

On May 11-12, 2016, fire managers at El Malpais National Monument successfully implemented the Big Tubes Prescribed Burn. This was only possible because of the interagency support of our local cooperators. The approximately 1,000 acre burn unit was located on the west side of the monument and east of County Road 42.

Ecosystem Health

burned forest floor under the green canopy of the trees above
After a fire the forest is reborn in nutrient rich ash that fertilizes the soil.


The primary objective of this prescribed burn was to improve the grassland and forest health. This prescribed burn helped release nitrogen along the lava flow margin to encourage Aspen regeneration and it will also help prevent encroachment by Pinyon and Juniper into the grassy open areas within the burn unit, to provide a more resilient Ponderosa Pine ecosystem.

Reducing the Build-Up of Fuel

Smoke from prescribed burn
Without the natural process of fire, southwestern forests and woodlands have become overgrown and vulnerable to drought, insects, and threats of catastrophic wildfire.


This prescribed burn also played an important role in reducing the amount of excessive fuel build-up to reduce possible fire behavior in the event of a wildfire. 

Fire is a natural part of the El Malpais ecosystem and reducing fuel build-up helps ensure the resiliency of fire dependent ecosystems. Over 100 years of fire suppression has occurred on most public lands throughout the western United States, which has greatly affected forest health and wildlife.

Benefits of Prescribed Fire

Firefighter with a handtool on the fireline
Fire managers carefully plan prescribed fires, initiating them only under environmental conditions that are favorable to assuring firefighter and visitor safety and to achieving desired objectives.


Restoration of forest and woodland ecosystems using appropriate management actions (e.g. prescribed burns) helps to re-establish the natural fire regime and benefits native plant and animal communities while at the same time protecting visitors, facilities, and resources within and adjacent to the park from unwanted fire effects from wildfires.

low intensity prescribed fire
Fire is a natural part of the El Malpais ecosystem and reducing fuel build-up helps ensure the resiliency of fire dependent ecosystems.


Initial results from the prescribed fire indicate objectives were met.

Contact: Kevin Parrish, Fire Management Officer, (505) 285-4641x35.

Last updated: June 12, 2016