Nearly 30 abandoned campfires — with several still burning — were discovered by fire prevention patrols over the weekend in the Santa Fe National Forest.

Forest Service officials say the repeated scenes over Mother's Day weekend are a bad start to what many expect will be a difficult wildfire season. Abandoned campfires are always a problem, but to find several burning without any attempt to extinguish them is something new, said Santa Fe National Forest spokeswoman Julie Anne Overton. 

"We always have issues with abandoned campfires, but for the fire folks who have come upon those abandoned campfires, I think it was a shock to them," she said. 

Abandoned campfires are the leading human cause of wildfires, according to a Forest Service news release. 

Northern New Mexico forest officials are discussing implementing fire restrictions before Memorial Day weekend due to the hotter, drier conditions forecast this summer, according to the news release. Nine fires already are burning in New Mexico and Arizona, consuming nearly 21,000 acres, according to the news release.

Overton said these problems are often caused by inexperienced campers. Wildfire safety is not a priority in every state and novice hikers and campers are often unaware of the safety requirements in place when they come to Santa Fe National Forest, she said. 

"Since the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen visitor traffic to the National Forest increase exponentially," Overton said. "I think a lot of the people are new to outdoor recreation. For a lot of people, this may be the very first time they've actually set foot on a national forest or gone camping on national forest."

Proper campfire extinguishing requires only two things: five gallons of water and a shovel. Overton said the best way to put out a campfire is to mix and stir the water with the smoldering ashes, coal and dirt. 

"As you get closer to that mud pie substance, if you still feel heat, you have more work to do. You should not leave that site until when you put your hand down there it's literally cool to the touch," she said. 

The Forest Service and Santa Fe National Forest are urging visitors and community members to follow fire safety guidelines and recommendations. 

(10) comments

Richard Reinders

Let people get certified before allowing them to camp in the forest like hunter safety course you have to take before you can get a hunting license, with so many big city people moving here it is just a matter of time before we have a major blaze. It is not fair to experience people that grew up camping but a simple 30 question test would at least put them on alert that they could go to jail and pay restitution.

Lee Vigil

It's disappointing that folks are driving off leaving a fire smoldering. This is a good article to bring awareness to the issue and I'm happy that the article ends with instructions for putting out a fire.

Michael Kiley

Oh come on. This is a simple practical problem. Every7one car camping or back country camping needs to bring (if no creek or lake) extra water to douse the fire and something to carry it in. High intelligence won't solve that problem. Take more water than you need to drink. And then stir up the embers and cover with sandy soil.

Tom Ribe

Let's face it. Some people aren't too bright. People who trash the woods, leave little bags of dog poop on the trail, walk away from a burning campfire. Not too intelligent folks. Maybe a little selfish too? Of course our former president modeled total ignorance and selfishness to the young generation. We can all help by talking to people who are damaging the outdoors. Pier to pier. Speak up when you see people sleep walking.

Ann Maes

Unfortunately, a campfire ban should be initiated with a hefty fine for those who disregard!

David Ford

Agreed Allen. Basically it boils down to a lack of respect for the environment, themselves, and others. I have hiked a couple of miles into places to fish and found quite a few empty beer cans and other trash, even though it would be easier to haul out than it was to haul in. Spoils the beauty complexly...

Allen Olson

Abandoning a campfire is a criminal act and should be treated as such. Don’t sugarcoat this by attributing this behavior to inexperience in the woods. Abandoning a campfire is stupid and callous regardless of who you are. People will die and resources destroyed if this behavior continues.

Sabine Strohem

EXACTLY. Thanks Allen Olson.

Philip Taccetta

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Stefanie Beninato

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