The Carson National Forest will reopen for public hiking, biking, camping and other recreational activities Tuesday, (July 10) at 8 a.m.
The announcement comes as welcomed news around Taos, where folks have been understanding of the reasoning behind closing the forest but missing their summertime adventures nonetheless.
Even though the forest is re-opening, fire restrictions are still in place for the time being. The Stage 2 restrictions prohibit campfires and wood or charcoal stoves, firearms, chainsaws and smoking.
The area surrounding the Sardinas Canyon Fire, located in the Camino Real district, will remain closed for public and firefighter safety. This closure will include the southern portion of Forest Service Road 76 and the La Junta, Duran and Upper La Junta campgrounds.
“We looked at the predicted weather patterns, forest-wide fuel moisture, and available firefighting resources,” said Forest Supervisor James Duran. “Given that we received rain and higher humidity, the potential for large wildfires has been reduced. I am comfortable with Stage 2 restrictions.”
Vehicles are required to have spark arresters, stay on roads, and not park over vegetation. Fire and area closure restrictions will be strictly enforced on the forest. Violation of these restrictions carries a mandatory appearance in federal court, consequent fines up to $10,000, and possible jail time.
The Santa Fe National Forest re-opened as well, and unlike the Carson, campfires are again allowed.
While the reopening of the forest is sure to make many people smile, wildfires are still burning around the region.
“I want to thank the public for their compliance, awareness and patience during these drought conditions,” said Duran. “Remember, we are still in fire season and under fire restrictions. I ask that you remain vigilant.”
Here's a wrap-up of the status of several fires, current as of 10 a.m. Monday (July 9).
Sardinas Canyon Fire, Taos County (18 miles from Taos)
As of Sunday (July 8), the relatively small and inactive fire burning about five miles from both the Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort and the community of Pot Creek is now 40 percent contained.
The fire is only 2,337 acres, meaning it grew by only about 300 acres since July 4. The number of fire personnel attending the blaze has dropped significantly, down from nearly 200 at the high mark to only 45 people.
The fire is a patchwork of different burn intensities, meaning it isn’t a solid wall of fire. This fire behavior mimics how wildfires tend to naturally burn on the landscape.
While fire investigators have determined the Sardinas Canyon Fire was caused by a human, no further details have been released.
Morris Creek Fire, Colfax County (burning on Philmont Scout Ranch lands)
As of Sunday (July 8), the fire was up to 1,623 acres but was 60 percent contained. The fire is burning on state-owned land, the UU Bar Ranch and the Philmont Scout Ranch. The boy scout facility has closed its rugged backcountry for the first time in the ranch’s history due to the intense fire danger.
The area didn’t get the rain over the weekend many had been anticipating. To help suppress the fire, helicopters dropped about 23,000 gallons of water as the fire moved across the Rayado Creek Drainage, according to the press release posted on nmfireinfo.com.
About 216 personnel are stationed at the lightning-caused wildfire.
“I am grateful that we have not had any reports of drones flying over the area and just want to remind the public that if you fly drones over a fire area, we have to stand down our operations,” said Air Operations Branch Director Dan Sullivan.
Emily Fire, Mora County (North of Las Vegas)
This lightning-caused wildfire is up to 1,874 acres and is burning in the grassy and brushy understory of the mixed conifer forests about 25 miles north of Las Vegas. State Forestry is primarily handling the blaze, which has 5 crews, 2 engines and about 130 people assigned to suppress it. It is currently 8 percent contained.
Smoke will be visible from Interstate 25 and the surrounding communities.
“Despite increased smoke yesterday, good progress was made in working toward containment on the Emily Fire. Fireline preparation efforts for the past several days, combined with favorable burn conditions, allowed fire personnel to start burning fuels in areas not accessible to firefighters,” read the July 9 press release from State Forestry.
Firefighters used “low-intensity” fire in some areas to avoid a high-intensity fire - such as one that burns in the crowns of treetops - moving through those same sections of forest. Crews will likely concentrate their efforts on the road into McIamar Canyon to the north and Arroyo Tierra Blanco to the south.
Spring Creek Fire, Costilla County, Colorado (about 35 miles north of state line)
The Spring Creek Fire ballooned with terrifying and dramatic speed since it first started June 27. As of Monday morning, it was 107,627 acres and 70 percent contained.
Because the fire spread so quickly and grew so large, two national-level teams were dispatched to take command of the fire, meaning it is being controlled like two separate incidents. Combined, 1,745 people are working on suppressing the human-caused wildfire.
Some people are starting to return to their homes after a slew of evacuations. However, more than 100 homes burned down because of the Spring Creek Fire; many homeowners will be left to sort through the rubble.
The weather will remain hot and dry today with only a 10 percent chance of rain.
Firefighters will continue to build direct (head-on) and indirect fire line as well as reinforcing the fire lines that are currently containing the flames. “As containment percentages increase, crews on the Spring Fire (south) begin to focus their efforts on mop-up, repair of fire suppression activities and removing or relocating unneeded equipment. Utility companies are working to repair infrastructure within the impacted areas,” read the July 9 press release about the fire.