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Stage 1 fire restrictions hit SF National Forest

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Forest Service crews train for upcoming fire season

Campers and hikers looking for adventures off trail this weekend will have to do so without the aid of a campfire, according to rangers in the Santa Fe National Forest.

“Campfires are prohibited at all dispersed camping sites. Stoves, lanterns or heaters fueled by propane or other liquefied petroleum fuels may be used in areas cleared of flammable materials within three feet of the device, if they meet manufacturer’s safety specifications and have on/off switches,” Santa Fe National Forest Public Affairs Officer Bruce Hill Jr. said.

Fire restrictions will remain in effect until Dec. 31 or until the U.S. Forest Service decides to lift them.

Campfires will be allowed in developed campsites. Developed campsites are campsites with fire rings and grills already installed by the U.S. Forest Service. Campers are also allowed to use their own charcoal grills, coal and wood stoves.

The Santa Fe National Forest and the Santa Fe National Guard just competed their annual joint fire suppression exercises last weekend.

On April 6, the agencies were briefed at the National Guard training facility at the Santa Fe Regional Airport on how to coordinate fire suppression between U.S. Forest Service ground crews and National Guard aviation crews. 

On April 7, New Mexico National Guard aviation crews and U.S. Forest Service ground crews went out to a section of the forest and practiced water suppression and mop-up operations.

Hill said since New Mexico had such a dry winter, the U.S. Forest Service called in crews two to three weeks earlier than usual to prepare.

U.S. Forest Service Natural Resource Specialist Jeff Bell said there are ways campers can be proactive when it comes to keeping campfires from getting out of control.

“Fire prevention is something we can all take a page out of when we go out there to use the public lands,” Bell said.

Bell recommends campers, whether that’s families or the lone backpacker should pack a pail and shovel with them when they go camping.

A shovel and a pail are one of the most effective tools to have when it comes to putting out fires.

Taking proportional amounts of potable and non-potable water are also recommended.

The U.S. Forest Service recommends at least a gallon of each. The non-potable water can be used to kill a campfire when it’s time to leave the site. Bell recommends after a fire gets the soil and water treatment, to hold the back of your hand close to the ashes. If it’s still hot, it’s recommended to keep using water and soil until the hand feels little to no heat.

Penalties for leaving a fire unattended are steep.  Violations are punishable as a Class B misdemeanor. Fines can go up to $5,000, for individual offenses and $10,000 for organizations. Individuals can also be sentenced up to six months in prison along with a fine.

This Saturday, the Jemez Mountains Baptist Church is hosting the second part of a fire preparedness workshop for residents that live in the Jemez Mountains.

Presenters will include rangers and wildfire specialists from the U.S. Forest Service. Topics will include how residents can fireproof their properties and prepare ahead of time for evacuations.

The event takes place Saturday morning at 9 a.m. at the Jemez Mountain Baptist Church, which is located at 6 Riverview Court, Jemez Springs.