Western wildfires close national forests
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.