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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Fire danger is high across New Mexico, and state officials announced Friday that they will impose fire restrictions for all 33 counties starting next week.
The restrictions will take effect Wednesday at 8 a.m. They will prohibit the use of fireworks, campfires and other open fires. Smoking will only be allowed in buildings, on paved surfaces or in vehicles with ashtrays.
Officials said the restrictions will apply on all non-municipal, non-federal and non-tribal lands in New Mexico and will remain in effect until rescinded.
“New fire starts are becoming difficult to control,” said State Forester Tony Delfin. “I’m urging all state residents affected to follow the restriction guidelines to protect lives and property in their communities.”
New Mexico is coming off back-to-back record-setting fire seasons.
Just this week, a 30-acre fire put up a plume of smoke in the Sandia Mountains east of Albuquerque, and fire officials were investigating whether another series of small fires near the La Luz trailhead on Thursday were intentionally set.
On Friday, Sandoval County authorities were busy investigating five fires — all within a half-mile of each other — that were sparked northwest of Rio Rancho.
Making matters worse are the dry conditions that have had a grip on New Mexico for the past three years.
With summer still weeks away, conditions across more than 80 percent of New Mexico are classified as extreme or worse, putting New Mexico in the No. 1 spot on the country’s drought list. Soil moisture levels are also nonexistent following a dismal snowpack and spring started off dry and windy.
With the new restrictions going into effect next week, officers with the New Mexico Game and Fish Department said Friday they will increase patrols on those lands managed by the agency.
Aside from watching for fires, they plan to check for fishing licenses as well as proper permits and registration for off-highway vehicles.
In addition to the restrictions on state lands and at some state parks, the Lincoln and Cibola national forests have put in place restrictions for some of their ranger districts.
In addition, Department of Game and Fish employees will increase patrols on State Game Commission-owned properties beginning May 9.
The conservation officers will be checking for several common violations.
“Visitors can expect to see our conservation officers patrolling commission-owned properties,” said Colonel Robert Griego, lead conservation officer for the Department of Game and Fish.
“We want everyone to enjoy the outdoors, but we also expect them to follow the rules and use extreme caution with fires.”