PECOS, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s been an active start to this fire season. Dry weather, high temperatures and irresponsible people are keeping forest rangers and firefighters scrambling.
KRQE News 13 rode along with forest rangers in the Santa Fe National Forest as they enforce new fire restrictions, which started at 8 a.m. Friday morning.
Campfires are now banned outside established fire rings.
“Are we able to make fires, or no?” asked a camper in an undeveloped area.
“We are actually right now as of today this morning we’re going into Stage 1 restrictions,” explained Fire Prevention Ranger and Firefighter Brendan Wyman.
It’s been a busy summer already for Wyman.
“Earlier this summer what I literally saw was an abandoned camp fire… there was a big stack of wood right here and there was one log that was hanging outside of the fire pit right into the stack of wood and it was still hot, still on fire,” he explained.
He said these kinds of negligent campfires have been a big problem lately.
“Any time you do see a rock ring like this in Stage 1 restrictions you are not able to have a fire,” he said.
The Stage 1 fire restrictions are in place because of the dry conditions New Mexico has been seeing, plus the high number of abandoned and dangerous campfires.
Santa Fe National Forest officials say an abandoned campfire is to blame for the recent Cajete Fire in the Jemez Mountains. It burned more than 1,400 acres and sparked evacuations.
“A lot of people mean well,” said Wyman. “They think that they are doing the right thing in the manner in which they put out a campfire.”
Friday, it was all about making sure campers in non-established campsites were well aware of the rules.
“Just putting a little bit of water on top and putting a little bit of dirt on top that camp fire can still be going and it can still cause a wildfire once you leave, whether it’s hours from now or even days from now,” he said.
Wyman adds it’s all about education. He said properly putting out a fire requires three to five gallons of water, lots of dirt, a shovel to mix it well and time, to stick around until it’s completely out.
Santa Fe National Forest officials say they’ve found at least 80 abandoned campfires this season.
The Stage 1 restrictions will continue at least until monsoon starts up.
There’s also the possibility the restrictions could be upgraded to Stage 2, meaning no fires anywhere.
People who do not abide by the rules will be cited.