As we gather to honor our fallen heroes this Memorial Day weekend and into the summer, support firefighters and protect your community by preventing any additional wildfire ignitions. We are experiencing historic levels of fire danger and restrictions and closures are in place in many areas across the state to prevent wildfires– in fact, many public lands are either in elevated levels of restrictions or are closed to public access entirely. This month, you can do your part by learning about restrictions and area closures across the state before you plan your weekend and summer activities or any recreation on public lands.
In New Mexico, wildland fire agencies and critical partners are asking residents and visitors to please recreate responsibly and help prevent human-caused wildfire ignitions. Continuing our “wildfire preparedness is year-round” campaign, our message for June is Know Before You Go! Here are a few things to keep in mind in planning your outdoor activities:
Always check for fire restrictions and closures in the area you plan to visit BEFORE you leave. The NM Department of Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources and the State Forester implemented revised statewide fire restrictions on May 19. Order 2022-02 prohibits smoking, fireworks use, campfires, open fires, open burning, and operation of certain equipment (i.e. chainsaws, cutting torches, welders, grinders, and other similar equipment). Order 2022-02 applies to all non-municipal, non-federal, and non-tribal lands in New Mexico. This order supersedes any previous orders.
Fire restrictions on other lands, including federal and tribal jurisdictions, are generally implemented in stages as follows:
- Stage 1: Prohibits:
- Building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire, charcoal, coal, or wood stove, except within a developed recreation site, or improved site.
- Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site, or while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable material.
- Possessing, discharging or using any kind of firework or other pyrotechnic device. Be aware that fireworks are always prohibited on federal lands in NM.
- Stage 2: Prohibits:
- Building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire, charcoal, coal, or wood stove in any location.
- Smoking, except in a vehicle or enclosed building.
- Using fireworks, explosives or other incendiary devices.
- Operating a chainsaw, or other equipment powered by an internal combustion engine (is usually restricted to cooler and more humid morning hours).
- Operating or using any internal or external combustion engine without a spark arresting device properly installed, maintained, and in effective working order.
- Welding or operating acetylene or other torch with open flame.
- Possessing or using a motor vehicle off roads on federal lands, except when parking in an area devoid of vegetation within 10 feet of the roadway.
- Violating any state law, that specifically concerns burning, fires, or that which is for the purpose of preventing or restricting the spread of fire
- Stage 3: Is a closure that prohibits entering upon public lands due to the extreme fire danger or the threat to public health and safety from an ongoing wildfire.
Prior to traveling even short distances, do a 360 walk-around and make sure your vehicle is ready to travel, that tires and brakes are in good working order and that you are not dragging chains. It is not commonly known that vehicles can emit particles from the exhaust or pieces of a failing catalytic converter that start roadside fires and the best prevention method is good vehicle maintenance. Once in route, ensure that all smoking-related materials are safely disposed, do not park on dry grass. Being prepared by carrying a fire extinguisher in your vehicle and a shovel – these will be of assistance should a fire start to ensure safe travels.
Other helpful resources include the Ready, Set, Go! Program (video), Living with Fire: A Guide for the Homeowner, New Mexico, Firewise USA®, and Fire Adapted New Mexico learning network (FACNM).
Your NM wildfire cooperators, including the BLM New Mexico, New Mexico Forestry Division, the Forest Stewards Guild, the Fire Adapted New Mexico learning network, Santa Fe, Cibola and Carson National Forests, New Mexico Coalition of Conservation Districts, National Park Service, and Bureau of Indian Affairs, to continue in 2022 a wildfire preparedness calendar and share the message across multiple platforms, including social media, webinars and community events. Bookmark the wildfire preparedness webpage to follow the campaign throughout the year.