Forest Service Takes Steps to Reduce Human Caused Wildfire During Global Pandemic – 4/15/20

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, Southwestern Region is enacting a campfire restriction to protect the health and safety of communities and employees during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Beginning April 15, until further notice, igniting, building, maintaining, attending or using a fire will be prohibited on all national forests in New Mexico and national grasslands in Oklahoma and Texas.

Forest Service officials are taking the necessary steps to ensure first responders are available to safely respond to incidents. This campfire restriction will prevent the drawdown of fire and medical resources to unwanted human-caused wildfires and reduce firefighter exposure to COVID-19. “While we know that going outside provides forest and grassland visitors needed space and exercise, we are taking the risks presented by COVID-19 seriously,” said Steve Hattenbach, Forest Supervisor for the Cibola National Forest and Grasslands. “We are providing some recreation opportunities where we can while protecting and keeping employees, the public and our communities safe from the virus and unwanted human-caused wildfires.”

The following is prohibited under the April 15 campfire restriction order:

Igniting, building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, including charcoal grills and barbecues, coal and wood burning stoves.

Violating the campfire restriction may result in an appearance in federal court, fines, or imprisonment for not more than six months. Forest visitors will still be able to use pressurized liquid or gas devices (stoves, grills or lanterns) with shut-off valves, in an area at least three feet from any flammable materials. While these restrictions are in place, the majority of the five national forests in New Mexico are still open, and dispersed camping – outside of developed campsites – and other recreation opportunities are available. Visit the Interactive Visitor Map at www.fs.usda.gov/goto/ivm for more information on available activities and closed sites. For additional information on COVID-19, go to https://www.coronavirus.gov. Information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is available at: www.usda.gov/coronavirus.

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