With July Fourth just around the corner and firework stands popping up along the sides of roads in Northern New Mexico, federal agencies based in Taos are putting out some simple tips to keep your family -- and the public at large -- safe during hot and dry conditions that are rife with the potential for wildfires.
▪ Firstly, fireworks are not allowed in public lands, including the Carson National Forest and lands operated by the Bureau of Land Management, such as the Río Grande del Norte National Monument.
▪ Always check weather conditions before going into the woods. Take plenty of water, food, extra clothes and other gear you may need.
▪ Have a map and let someone know both where you'll be and when you're planning on coming back.
▪ Only have campfires in approved camp sites and never leave a campfire unattended. Pack a shovel and bucket to extinguish campfires. After dousing the fire with water, stir the ashes around and check the heat with your hand. All campfires have to be dead out before leaving the site.
Unattended camp fires can have big and costly consequences. A campfire left burning in the Santa Fe National Forest started the 1,412-acre Cajete Fire, which forced about 200 people to temporarily evacuate the area earlier this month. At least three more unattended campfires were discovered while wildland firefighting crews monitored the blaze. A human-caused brush fire also forced some residents near Santa Fe to evacuate their homes.
While no unattended campfires have been reported or discovered on BLM land around Taos, Carson National Forest patrols have found 17 abandonded campfires thus far in 2017. Fire prevention patrols in the Jemez Ranger District of the Santa Fe National Forest found 13 unattended campfires in just a single weekend earlier this month.
As of Tuesday (June 27), the National Weather Service is predicting temperatures in the high 80s for the coming weekend with a slight chance of scattered thunderstorms.
According to Pat Pacheco, BLM fire management officer for Farmington and Taos, "the key to success is the public's diligence and help in reporting unsafe practices. The public catches more of the arsonists and crime; they help keep us safe and in the loop."
Wildfires or suspicious fire activity in public lands can be reported to Taos Dispatch at (575) 758-6208 or simply by calling 911, according to Pacheco.