Bilingual Fire Training Brings International Pros To New Mexico

By Jude Joffe-Block
September 24, 2013
The Nature Conservancy/Wendy Fulks
A group of training participants practice igniting a test fire in the Santa Fe National Forest.

This week, parts of the Santa Fe National Forest will be on fire. On purpose.

A group of forestry and fire professionals from across the Americas and the Iberian Peninsula will be practicing how to set controlled burns.

Prescribed burns can be used to prevent mega wildfires and can promote healthy forest ecosystems.

The training brings together participants from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Chile, Spain and Portugal. The idea is to create an exchange of information in both Spanish and English about best practices for fire management and land conservation techniques.

The training is led by the Nature Conservancy in cooperation with Santa Fe National Forest, Valles Caldera National Preserve and Bandelier National Monument.

The Nature Conervancy’s Jeremy Bailey said this is the third training for Spanish speakers that the organization has held in the past four years. Bailey said the demographics of New Mexico forestry staff – many of whom are completely bilingual – is what makes it possible to host a hands-on Spanish-language training there.

“Our hosts here have the capacity to conduct burn operations in Spanish,” Bailey said. “That enables us to host a training event where we conduct prescribed burns in Spanish.”

Participants also are evaluating the effectiveness of previous controlled burns in the area and the impacts of the recent Thompson Ridge wildfire.