Santa Fe National Forest to close due to fire risk | KOB 4
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Santa Fe National Forest to close due to fire risk

J.R. Oppenheim
May 30, 2018 10:12 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – With the fire danger at severe levels, officials in the Santa Fe National Forest will issue a closure order later this week.

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The forest will shut down beginning Friday at 8 a.m. Forest Supervisor James Melonas and others will provide additional information during a news conference set for Thursday morning.

The closure affects all recreational activity in the forest, including campgrounds, trails and forest roads. County and state roads in the forest will remain open as they are not under Forest Service jurisdiction.

The forest has been under Stage 2 fire restrictions since May 7. However, forest officials say they've seen more than 120 abandoned campfires with at least 84 over Memorial Day weekend.

"In addition to extremely dry conditions across most of the forest, we have also seen widespread noncompliance with Stage 2 restrictions," Forest Supervisor James Melonas said. "Under current conditions, one abandoned campfire could cause a catastrophic wildfire, and we are not willing to take that chance with the natural and cultural resources under our protection and care."

Individuals who violate the closure order face a fine up to $5,000 and up to six months imprisonment, forest officials say. Click here for more information on fire restrictions.

Though the forest will close, businesses in the surrounding communities will stay open.

"Our tourist attractions, restaurants, shops and galleries are ready to welcome visitors," Jemez Springs Mayor Roger Sweet said.  "We are all worried about current conditions on the forest. Although a closure does affect our local economy, if wildfire destroys the forest, we have no economy."

Frank Adelo, a business owner in Pecos, said he understands why the forest's closure order needs to be implemented.

"We hate to see it happen, but too many people don’t respect the rules of the forest or understand the consequences of a wildfire," he said.

Meanwhile, the Gila National Forest has raised its fire danger rating to very high. Forest officials say conditions are incredibly dry and they're concerned because there has been an increase in abandoned campfires. They say small fires could become big fires quickly.

The Buzzard Fire burning east of Reserve has grown to tan 20,300 acres. It's now 34 percent contained. The cause is still under investigation.

In Eddy County, fire crews are continuing with ignitions to contain the Kellar fire. The lightning-caused fire has burned around 620 acres near Queen.

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J.R. Oppenheim

Copyright 2018 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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