The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, Southwestern Region today enacted a campfire restriction to protect the health and safety of employees and communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. From April 15 through June 30, campfires are prohibited on all five national forests in New Mexico and national grasslands on the Cibola in Oklahoma and Texas.
Forest Service officials are taking necessary steps to ensure first responders are available to safely respond to and manage incidents. This campfire restriction will prevent the drawdown of fire and medical resources to human-caused wildfires and reduce firefighter exposure to COVID-19 during the current pandemic.
“While we know that going outside provides forest visitors needed space, exercise and satisfaction, we are taking the risks presented by COVID-19 seriously,” said Santa Fe National Forest Supervisor James Melonas said. “We are providing some recreation opportunities where we can while also protecting and keeping employees, the public and our communities safe from the virus and unwanted human-caused wildfires.”
The April 15 campfire restriction order prohibits igniting, building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, including charcoal grills and barbecues, coal and wood burning stoves. Forest visitors are allowed to use pressurized liquid or gas stoves, grills or lanterns with shut-off valves as long as they are at least three feet from any flammable materials.
Violating the campfire restriction may result in an appearance in federal court, fines, and possible time in jail.
While these restrictions are in place, the majority of the five national forests in New Mexico are still open for dispersed camping – outside of developed campsites – and other recreation opportunities. Visit the SFNF Interactive Visitor Map at http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/santafe/ivm for more information on available activities and closed sites.