Here We Go Again – Too Many Abandoned Campfires on SFNF

SANTA FE, NM – May 11, 2021 – On the brink of the 2021 wildfire season, with severe drought conditions and high fire danger across the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF), one abandoned campfire is one too many.

Over Mother’s Day weekend, fire prevention patrols on the Jemez Ranger District found 18. The Pecos/Las Vegas Ranger District was not far behind with an estimated 10 abandoned campfires reported over the last 10 days. Most of the abandoned campfires – still the leading human cause of wildfire – are found at dispersed campsites.

As if nearly 30 abandoned campfires aren’t bad enough, the Jemez patrols are reporting something new this year. Several of the campfires they found were not still-smoldering ash but actually flaming, burning logs which no one had even attempted to extinguish.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have seen their public lands as a welcome respite. Since this time last year, hikers and campers have flocked to the SFNF, many for the first time based on anecdotal evidence. While the vast majority of forest visitors camp responsibly, the handful that do not put the forest and surrounding communities in harm’s way. It takes only one abandoned campfire in the wrong place at the wrong time to put human lives, natural resources and property at risk.

With hotter, drier conditions forecasted and fire indices rising, the Northern New Mexico forests are discussing implementing fire restrictions before the Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of the summer season.

In the meantime, if you plan to gather family and friends around a campfire, please do it safely by following Smokey Bear’s campfire safety procedures. If you need a visual, watch this Forest Service video on YouTube. Build your campfire in an area cleared of vegetation. Never abandon or leave a campfire unattended. Always have plenty of water and a shovel nearby. When it’s time to leave, extinguish your campfire by drowning and stirring until it’s the consistency of a mud pie and cold to the touch.

According to the daily situation report from the National Interagency Coordination Center, there are currently nine wildfires in New Mexico and Arizona, totaling nearly 21,000 acres with 467 personnel on the ground. As the 2021 wildfire season gets underway in New Mexico, don’t be the one who makes it worse by abandoning a burning campfire.

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