The Santa Fe and Carson national forests will implement forest-wide closures this week as the largest wildfire in state history continues to grow across northern New Mexico and officials warn of extreme fire danger.
The Cibola National Forest and Grasslands will also close the Mt. Taylor, Mountainair and Sandia Ranger Districts to the public.
All three closures will begin at 8 a.m. on Thursday May 19. The Santa Fe National Forest closure prohibits public access to 1.6 million acres of forest lands, recreation sites, roads, trails and trailheads.
The Carson National Forest closure covers 1.5 million acres.
The closures are a response to the extreme and early fire season, said Zachary Behrens, a Carson National Forest spokesperson.
High temperatures this spring are “preheating wildland fuels.”
“That makes things more volatile for existing fires, but also any new fire that may start,” Behrens said.
Closures will remain in effect until Dec. 31 unless they are rescinded earlier or fire conditions improve.
Law enforcement and firefighters are exempt from the closure order, as are residents using roads to access their private property.
“We’re all experiencing similar conditions,” Behrens said. “We have no significant precipitation in the foreseeable future. Even though there may have been a little rain yesterday, that only provides temporary relief. We really need significant precipitation to get out of these closures. When that will happen will be anyone’s guess.”
Closure order violations carry fines of up to $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for organizations, as well as mandatory federal court appearances and possible jail time.