Fire Stories

Fire stories from the national parks highlight events, incidents, and the like, associated with fire and fuels management, as well as fire education, technology, partnerships, and more. Stories highlight work related to Department of the Interior initiatives as well as local and regional initiatives.

Fuel Break to Protect Historic Structure from Wildfire

Intermountain Regional Office, New Mexico
Cohesive Strategy—Fire Adapted Communities*

A man uses a tool to limb a small tree.

Thinning hazard fuels. NPS

In 2013, the National Park Service (NPS) implemented a hazard fuels reduction project at the site of the historic Old Santa Fe Building in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The eight-acre site is managed by the NPS and serves as one of three office buildings for the Intermountain Region.

Years of sustained drought has resulted in the accumulation of hazardous fuels within the site and pose an increased danger of wildfire threats to visitors, NPS employees, and the community. Mechanical treatment of these hazardous fuels is essential to achieve long-term objectives in reducing vegetative fuels, restoring the natural ecosystem, and protecting the public from the impacts of a wildland fire.

The Santa Fe office surrounded by trees.
The Santa Fe office after trees had been thinned.

View of the north side of the building, before thinning project (top) and after (bottom). NPS

NPS personnel, in collaboration with firefighters from the Santa Fe Fire Department, used hand tools and chainsaws to thin and remove vegetation on approximately five acres of the property, to create “defensible space” around the building in the event of a wildland fire. Thinned vegetation was hauled off site by the City of Santa Fe for future use. This is part of an ongoing project that began in 2011. Periodic follow-up maintenance treatments will be conducted to maintain the effectiveness of the fuel break over time.

The site of the Old Santa Fe Building includes numerous offices, landscaped courtyards and patios, entrance roads and parking lots, and surrounding lands and vegetation. The Spanish Pueblo style adobe building was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the late 1930s and was dedicated a National Historic Landmark (NHL) in May 1987. Wood features adorn the building’s entrance ways, windows, walkways, and walls. The surrounding vegetation is primarily piñ on-juniper woodlands with brush species lining the Arroyo Los Chamisos.

The project was developed in conjunction with the Santa Fe County-wide Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP), and the Santa Fe Fire Department. This plan also complies with the International Codes Council codes, section 603 and 604 as well as Firewise protocols, as adopted by the NPS. The project is also approved as part of the 2010 Cultural Landscape Report (CLR) for the NHL property. Completion of the CLR included two public meetings. For more information on the NPS wildland fire management program, please visit the NPS Wildland Fire Management website.

Contact: Jeff Hickerson, Regional Fuels Specialist


Phone: (505) 988-6094