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4th of July Campfires Are a Concern for SFNF; Forest Offices Closed Tomorrow for the Holiday

Although fire prevention patrols on the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) found only 11 abandoned campfires last weekend – a huge improvement over the 45 found the previous weekend – fire managers are worried about the upcoming Fourth of July holiday.
With thousands of visitors expected to spend a four-day weekend on a hotter and drier forest, the risk of human-caused wildfire rises exponentially.  “Thanks to good moisture through the winter and into June, we are not in fire restrictions this year,” Fire Staff Officer Lance Elmore said. “But the forest can and will burn. And if your abandoned campfire causes a 1-acre fire, a 100-acre fire or a 10,000-acre fire, you have put the lives of firefighters at risk. We are asking everyone to make sure their campfires are dead out before they head for home.”
If you plan to gather family and friends around a campfire, please do it safely by following Smokey Bear’s campfire safety procedures. If you need a visual, watch this Forest Service video on YouTube. Never leave your campsite until the fire is completely extinguished and cold to the touch.
Visitors are reminded that fireworks and explosives are always prohibited on federal lands. Fire prevention staff and law enforcement will be patrolling popular recreation corridors through the weekend.
All SFNF offices will be closed on Thursday, July 4, for the holiday.  Offices will resume regular business hours on Friday.
A few tips for a safe holiday weekend on the forest:
·         Weather – It’s monsoon season in New Mexico. Check weather forecasts, and be prepared for thunderstorms. If there is lightning, seek shelter in buildings or vehicles, never under trees. Avoid low areas, arroyos and stream channels because of the flash flooding danger.
·         Camping – Be considerate of other campers. Adhere to the Leave No Trace principles of outdoor ethics to leave your favorite part of the SFNF ready for the next visitors to enjoy. You are welcome to camp and picnic outside developed campgrounds and recreation areas unless the area is specifically posted as closed. Make sure you have plenty of drinkable water.
·         Wildlife – The forest is home to many wildlife species, and it’s always a good idea to remember to keep wildlife wild so they don’t become habituated to humans. Photograph and watch wildlife from a safe distance. Be bear aware and know what to do if you do encounter a bear. If you are camping, store food and trash in bear-resistant containers away from your tent. The SFNF is also home to mountain lions. Review safety tips from the Mountain Lion Foundation.
·         Dogs — Dogs are welcome on the SFNF, but owners are responsible for the safety of their pets and other visitors. National Forest Service guidelines require pets to be on a leash no longer than six feet at all times in developed recreation areas, parking lots and on interpretive trails.  In general, dogs should always be under the owner’s command. Be sensitive to the fact that other visitors, especially children, may not be comfortable around dogs, and don’t let your dog wander off trail where it might encounter wildlife. And yes, even though you are in the woods, you still have to clean up after your dog.
·         Hazard trees – Trees weakened by age, fire or disease pose a danger to people and property. Be aware of your surroundings and look up when hiking on trails, avoid dense patches of dead trees, and stay out of the forest if there are strong winds that could blow weakened trees down.
·         Motorized vehicles – Refer to the 2019 Motor Vehicle Use Maps, available at all SFNF offices and online, so you know which roads and trails are open to motor vehicle traffic. Off-road/off-trail motorized travel is prohibited. Please don’t do it.
·         Share your plans – Whether you are just out for the day or planning to stay overnight, always let someone know your plans, including your itinerary and when you expect to return home. Do not rely on cell phones for safety because you may not always have cell coverage in remote sections of the forest.
Happy Fourth of July!

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