Officials discover illegal campfires, remind everyone about fire restrictions

Posted at: 05/26/2013 3:19 PM
By: Maria Guerrero, KOB Eyewitness News 4

New Mexico’s national forests are sure to be a hot spot this holiday weekend.

But because two illegal campfires were discovered in just the past couple of days, forest service officials urge you to follow the fire restrictions wherever you go.

"People have to be a lot more careful about that kind of thing, particularly as dry as it is here in New Mexico in the spring with the winds and. It could completely devastate the forest," said Ken Wilson who frequents the Cibola National Forest.

Stage II fire restrictions are in place for the forest.

That means campfires are not allowed in places like the Oak Flat Picnic Area.

Signs are up, but some people don’t follow the rules.

“This is where we found the illegal campfire,” said firefighter Dustin Strayer. Strayer is from Montana. He and his crew are in New Mexico to help patrol the forest.

Strayer found a smoldering pile of white hot ash Thursday afternoon.

“We believe it was started the previous night. Most of the wood they had in there had been pretty much consumed," he said.

State forestry officials say someone broke off fresh juniper branches, grabbed some pine needles and dumped them on the asphalt near a covered picnic area and started a fire.

“I don't know if it was just kids up here partying or what,” said Strayer.

They didn’t find a fire ring, but did find beer cans all around the campfire. The forest service has crews on 12-hour patrols.

Here’s why Strayer says the abandoned camp fire wasn’t detected sooner.

"It wasn't showing any smoke, any signs of being hot like I said until you actually get down there and feel it," he said.

The forest service discovered a second abandoned campfire on Friday at the Dry Camp Picnic Ground along Highway 536.

If you are in an area that does allow campfires, forest service says to make sure you douse the fire one hour before you leave. And before you leave, you should be able to touch the campfire and it feel cold.

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