NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – This week’s weather is creating some significant fire danger throughout the state. Forecasters say the record heat along with chances for dry thunderstorms and wind are a bad mix.
State and federal officials are already imposing fire restrictions in an effort to prevent a major fire. The Carson, Cibola and Santa Fe National Forests will implement Stage 2 fire restrictions at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, May 20, 2020. The restrictions are an effort to reduce the risk of human-caused wildfires.
The restrictions will be implemented forest-wide on the Carson and Santa Fe National Forests and on Mount Taylor, Magdalena, Mountainair and Sandia Ranger Districts of the Cibola National Forest and National Grasslands.
Stage 2 fire restrictions prohibit:
- Building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire, campfire, or stove fire.
- Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site, or while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is cleared of vegetation and flammable material.
- Welding or operating an acetylene or other torch with open flame.
- Driving off designated roads. Visitors may park in areas cleared of vegetation within 10 feet of the roadway, or in designated parking areas.
- Operating a chainsaw or other equipment powered by an internal combustion engine between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. The so-called “hoot owl” provision is a historic term that was used to notify woodcutters they could only cut during the morning hours when they could hear owls in the forest. Today, the restriction reduces the risk of an accidental fire start by mechanical equipment during the hottest, driest part of the day. Fuelwood permit holders may still collect wood as long as the chainsaws are off by 10 a.m.
- Fireworks and other pyrotechnic devices are always prohibited on national forests.
Federal, state and local officers, members of an organized rescue team or firefighting force, and any others authorized by permit are exempt from the closure order. Other exemptions include:
- Residents, owners and leases of land within the boundaries of the Carson National Forest, and holders of Forest Service recreation special use authorizations are exempt from the campfire ban if the fire is within a permanent structure.
- Generators with an approved spark arresting device if used in an area cleared of all vegetation and flammable materials within 3 feet of the generator.
- Stoves and lanterns fueled by propane or other liquefied petroleum fuels that meet manufacturer’s safety specifications and have on/off switches.
All three national forests are still welcoming visitors but are asked to use extreme caution when fire restrictions are in place. Violations are punishable as a Class B misdemeanor by a fine of not more than $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for organizations and/or by imprisonment for not more than six months.
The fire restrictions are in place until Dec. 31, 2020, unless rescinded earlier.