SANTA FE – A rash of unattended and abandoned campfires on the Jemez Ranger District of the Santa Fe National Forest over Easter weekend put visitors, fire crews and the forest at unnecessary risk.
Fortunately, none of the six to seven identified campfires at the Redondo Campground and along Forest Road 376 sparked or spread before they were discovered and extinguished. But as the New Mexico fire season nears, it’s important to remember that unattended campfires are the leading human cause of wildfire.
Visitors to national forests are asked to follow campfire safety procedures (http://bit.ly/2pudJRz) 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.
- 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.
“We want visitors to enjoy their time on the Santa Fe National Forest,” Forest Supervisor James Melonas said. “Part of that is gathering around a campfire with family and friends. But please do it responsibly and safely so that the next group of campers can enjoy the same experience.”