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Forest Service takes fire prevention steps

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, Southwestern Region, which encompasses the Lincoln National Forest, is enacting a campfire restriction during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beginning April 15 and until further notice, igniting, building, maintaining, attending or using a fire will be prohibited on all five national forests in New Mexico, according to a press release issued Wednesday.

This campfire restriction will prevent the drawdown of fire and medical resources to unwanted human-caused wildfires and reduce firefighter exposure to COVID-19 during the current pandemic, the press release states.

“While spending time outside provides forest visitors needed space, exercise and satisfaction, we are taking the risks presented by COVID-19 seriously,” said Lincoln National Forest Supervisor Travis Moseley. “We are providing some recreation opportunities where we can while protecting and keeping employees, the public and our communities safe from the virus, as well as protecting and keeping communities and natural and cultural resources safe from unwanted human-caused wildfires.”

Prohibited under the April 15 campfire restriction order: Igniting, building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, including charcoal grills and barbecues, coal and wood burning stoves.

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Violating the campfire restriction may result in an appearance in federal court, fines, and possible time in jail, according to the press release.

Forest visitors will still be able to use pressurized liquid or gas devices (stoves, grills or lanterns) with shut-off valves, in an area at least three feet from any flammable materials.

While these restrictions are in place, the majority of the five national forests in New Mexico are still open, and dispersed camping — outside of developed campsites — and other recreation opportunities are available.