Despite the campfire ban that went into effect on April 15 for all five national forests in New Mexico, patrols on the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) last weekend found illegal campfires from the Jemez Mountains to Pecos Canyon. Too many of those campfires were not properly extinguished, and an abandoned campfire jumped the fire ring and started a wildfire that required firefighter response.
Law enforcement and recreation patrols reported additional examples of visitor misuse, including garbage left behind and piles of human waste outside locked toilet facilities.
“The health and safety of our employees and the public remain our top priority in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Forest Supervisor James Melonas said. “That priority is severely compromised when members of the public ignore the campfire ban, when the irresponsible few leave trash and ignore the basics of public hygiene.”
Managers on the SFNF understand that many people are seeking solace in the outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic, but with recreation opportunities come responsibilities. While most visitors follow current health guidelines and recreate responsibly, the few who don’t endanger themselves and others.
In addition to the campfire ban, the Forest Service has implemented closure orders in alignment with federal guidance and state public health orders to limit the spread of COVID-19. Although the forest remains open to the public, social distancing and restrictions on group size still apply. As a reminder, at this time:
- All developed campgrounds on the SFNF are closed to overnight camping.
- All toilet facilities on the forest are locked.
- Campfires, charcoal grills, and coal and wood burning stoves are prohibited.
- Some picnic/day use sites are closed to the public.
- Trash collection is suspended. Please take your garbage home.
If you plan to visit the national forest, please be considerate of others, including the residents of gateway communities like Jemez Springs, Cuba and Pecos. Avoid unnecessary exposure and follow the rules and guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.