ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - The Jemez has been a prime destination for campers this summer. The mountains have packed every weekend, although with those campers come campfires, many of which have been left unattended.
Just last weekend rangers and forest workers put out 87 unattended smoldering campfires and this month that number is already at 120.
"Eighty-seven is a lot of campfires to put out on a weekend and it really begs the question of what's going on there? What are we missing," asked Assistant Fire Manager of the Jemez Ranger District, Todd Lerke.
Fire restrictions prohibit campfires of any kind right now, but that's not stopping people.
Lerke responded to six wildfires in the last two weeks that were all accidentally started by campers.
"They failed to extinguish their fire completely and it crept out overnight," said Lerke.
Sixty firefighters got to one of them just in time on Sunday, keeping that blaze to just one acre but that effort alone cost $110,000.
"A lot of times you'll hear on the news that it's going into restriction of 'Stage 2' or something like that. I'm afraid it's going right past them," said Sandoval County Deputy Fire Chief Jess Lewis.
Lewis says his crews must respond to 911 calls of fire also which stretches his department thin.
"Those are the same people that are called to the next E.M.S. call, and now they're tied up on the fire," said Lewis.
Lerke says hot and dry conditions aside, if human-caused fires keep popping up, they'll close off the Jemez Mountains to hikers and campers. That's something no one wants to see happen, especially the tourism industry up there.
Because of the large number of human-caused fires, the U.S. Forest Service has fire crews from Montana stationed in the Jemez. Those crews cost the federal government 12-thousand dollars per day.
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