SANTA FE — Considered the unofficial opening of the summer recreation season, the three-day Memorial Day weekend usually means a busy time for fire patrols on the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF), who understand all too well that more than 80% of wildfires are caused by people’s carelessness.
Complying with Stage 1 fire restrictions in place on the west side of the forest and following simple guidelines for recreating responsibly outdoors will keep everyone safe and protect the SFNF from preventable wildfires this Memorial Day weekend and throughout the summer season.
Plan Ahead. Check for fire restrictions before you leave home. If you are planning to visit any part of the SFNF west of US Highway 84/285, campfires are prohibited at dispersed camp sites. Fires and charcoal grills are allowed only at developed campgrounds or picnic areas with Forest Service-built fire rings or grills. The east side of the forest is not under fire restrictions, but make sure you are not responsible for causing a wildfire.
Play it Safe. Understand the potentially explosive nature of your toys and tools and make sure there are no restrictions on their use in the area you are visiting.
Explore Locally. Impacts from wildfire can change your travel plans. Have a back-up plan that includes destinations closer to home. Refer to the SFNF Motor Vehicle Use Maps so you know which roads and trails are open to motor vehicle traffic.
Leave No Trace. Visitors should be prepared to follow Leave No Trace principles, including disposing of waste properly and respecting wildlife. Ideally, “pack it in, pack it out” means you take your trash home with you if trash receptacles on the forest are full. If you are in a developed campground or on the east side of the SFNF, keep your campfire small and make sure it’s completely out and cold to the touch before going to sleep or leaving your campsite.
Build an Inclusive Outdoors. Public lands belong to everyone. Respecting the values and cultures of fellow visitors to the outdoors helps develop meaningful connections to the natural world and a commitment to stewardship.
SFNF offices will be closed Monday, May 31, in observance of Memorial Day, but fire personnel, law enforcement officers and recreation staff will be patrolling the forest over the long weekend.
The National Interagency Fire Center website has additional resources on wildfire prevention. Find out more about the #RecreateResponsibly movement at www.recreateresponsibly.org. Stay safe and stay up to date on closures and other news by checking the SFNF website and following us on Facebook and Twitter.