Abandoned Campfire + Fire Season = Potential Disaster

Example of what can quickly happen when a campfire is not completely extinguished. Courtesy photo

SFNF News:

  • Unattended campfires are the leading human cause of wildfire

SANTA FE – The good news is that last weekend there were only four abandoned campfires on the Santa Fe National Forest, a significant decrease from the 41 discovered over the Memorial Day weekend. 

The bad news is that two of the four escaped the fire ring and could have kicked off a wildfire if they had not been found in time and extinguished. 

As conditions on the forest get warmer and drier, please remember that unattended campfires are the leading human cause of wildfire. And thank you to the majority of the visiting public who understand the importance of taking responsibility for their campfire.

  • Follow campfire safety procedures to prevent wildfire and ensure public safety:
  • Bring a shovel and plenty of water to make sure you can put your campfire completely out.
  • Build campfires away from overhanging branches, steep slopes, rotten stumps, logs, dry grass and leaves. 
  • It’s always preferable to use an existing fire ring or a rock-ringed fire pit. Clear all flammable material at least five feet away from the fire in all directions.
  • Don’t build a campfire on a windy day.
  • Building and maintaining campfires should always be done under adult supervision.
  • Never leave a campfire unattended, even for a few minutes.
  • Use dry wood no bigger than the fire ring or pit.
  • Extinguish your campfire before you call it a night and crawl into your sleeping bag.
  • To completely extinguish a campfire, pour water on the embers until the hissing and steaming stops. Then use the shovel to mix dirt and water with the ashes until what remains of your fire is cold to the touch of a bare hand.
  • Don’t cover the ashes with rocks to extinguish your fire.  Rocks can hold heat and create a funnel for air to reignite the coals.
  • Don’t head for home until you are sure your campfire is DEAD OUT … If it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave.
  • If you discover an unattended fire, use 911 to report it and do what you can to put it out. Report suspicious smoke.

NOTE: Violators of regulations that prohibit abandoning a campfire are subject to a fine and/or imprisonment. If the abandoned campfire causes a wildfire, violators can also be held responsible for fire suppression costs.

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