High fire danger forces forest closures

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico has avoided a terrible fire season so far this year, and there have been no fires in the Sandias. But, with temperatures rising and no rain for weeks, that could change as quickly as a spark flies.

Because of that, the Forest Service is taking drastic steps. Starting Monday at 8:00 a.m., popular areas of the Cibola National Forest in the Sandia and Manzano mountains will be closed to the public.

It’s been about a month since the Sandias have had significant rain. With the fire danger now very high, the Forest Service has decided to close large parts of the Sandia and Mountainair Ranger Districts.

“We’re just in dry times in the southwest as you know,” said Louis Abruzzo, President of the Sandia Tram Co.

The closures include popular trails, including the well-traveled La Luz.

The Tram, which carries riders nearly 4,000 vertical feet to the peak, will continue to operate as usual.

However, it, along with other businesses will take a hit.

“We see about a 15-percent drop, our locals they’ll be up in force this weekend hiking and biking and climbing,” explained Abruzzo.

Meanwhile, visitors are getting their forest fix while they still can.

“I did read earlier in the week that the trails were closing on June 30th, so I was glad we made it in time,” said Margie Fischer, who’s visiting from Texas.

“We hiked up to the Kiwanis cabin, about a mile and a half up, a long mile and a half when you’re not used to the altitude,” said Jerry Gething, visiting from Maryland with a Boy scout troop.

Even though visitors won’t be able to venture out into the forest, they can still ride up to the observation deck and enjoy the unparalleled views of Albuquerque.

High Finance restaurant at the top will stay open, and a brand new top deck shelter and viewing area is still set to open 4th of July weekend.

“This new building is bigger, higher ceilings, more glass, better layout and much better views,” explained Abruzzo. The surrounding deck was also redone to heat up during the winter, to help with the ice.

The new building replaces the original one, which would have turned 50 in a couple years.

Although restrictions are in place, people are still encouraged to take advantage of the outdoor activities Albuquerque has to offer.

There are extra hotshot crews from other states helping to keep an eye on the Sandias until we get some rain.

KRQE News 13 has a complete list of the current NM Fire Restrictions.

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