Western wild­fires close na­tional forests

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - Milwaukee Wisconsin - Trevor Hughes

Ex­treme fire dan­ger in the South­west­ern U.S. has prompted fed­eral land man­agers to take the un­usual step of in­def­i­nitely clos­ing pub­lic ac­cess to an area of na­tional forests larger than Con­necti­cut.

Colorado, New Mex­ico and Ari­zona are strug­gling with an usu­ally hot spring that came af­ter a win­ter with lit­tle snow­fall, prim­ing the forests to burn. And rangers say campers are fail­ing to extinguish their camp­fires, cre­at­ing an un­ten­able sit­u­a­tion.

Mul­ti­ple wild­fires are al­ready burn­ing in the area, in­clud­ing the 23,000-acre 416 Fire near Du­rango, Colorado, and the 41,000-acre Buz­zard Fire in west­cen­tral New Mex­ico.

“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,” Santa Fe Na­tional For­est Su­per­vi­sor James Melonas said.

Rangers have closed the en­tire San Juan Na­tional For­est in south­ern Colorado and Santa Fe Na­tional For­est in New Mex­ico near Santa Fe, along with pop­u­lar ar­eas in the Tonto, Apache-Sit­g­reaves, Co­conino and Kaibab na­tional forests in Ari­zona.

The San Juan and Santa Fe forests alone rep­re­sent more than 5,000 square miles. State and county roads run­ning through the forests re­main open.

The Santa Fe for­est clo­sure be­gan June 1, and the San Juan clo­sure be­gan Tues­day morn­ing.

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