SANTA FE – Sometimes called the Albuquerque metropolitan area’s “backyard” because of its proximity to the state’s largest city, the Jemez Ranger District on the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) hosts thousands of visitors on any given weekend between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends.
Unfortunately, a small minority of those visitors can cause huge problems for the forest. Once again, fire prevention patrols on the Jemez District found 13 abandoned or unattended campfires this past weekend.
“We’ve been lucky so far, but we are now officially in our fire season,” Jemez District Ranger Brian Riley said. “Since Memorial Day, we’ve been able to extinguish all the abandoned campfires before they sparked and spread. But as we move deeper into summer, the forest is getting hotter and drier, and the risk of wildfire is climbing by the minute.”
Abandoned campfires are the leading human cause of wildfire. “We are pleading with our visitors to learn about campfire safety procedures before they come to the forest and to follow the procedures once they are here,” Riley said.
Riley also reported vandalism on the project site at the Gilman Tunnels on Forest Road (FR) 376. Sometime Friday night, a vehicle crashed through the gate on the southern end of the project area near the community of Gilman, drove through the tunnels, which are currently closed under a temporary closure order, and crashed through the second gate on the north side of the tunnels.
Evidence at the scene indicated that the vehicle sustained substantial damage, and law enforcement officials continue to look for the vehicle. The Gilman Tunnels are currently closed to motorized and foot traffic to protect public safety and allow contractors to perform the work. “These individuals could have caused serious problems for the project, not to mention serious bodily harm to themselves. Fortunately, that didn’t happen, but the next time could be worse,” Riley said.
The SFNF has posted numerous signs to alert travelers to the closure, including an electronic highway sign on N.M. 4 at Cañon