In case you haven’t noticed, “It is hotter and drier this year,” says Bruce Hill, public affairs officer for the Santa Fe National Forest. And as most Santa Feans also know, a hot summer in a drought year means one thing: fire.
When asked how to prepare for a (hopefully hypothetical) wildfire, Santa Fe County Fire Chief David Sperling issues a grim warning.
“People just need to really be aware that this is an extraordinary year this year, and be prepared to evacuate the residence if the need arises,” he says. “And by being prepared, I mean have what you need available to you to load up and go in a moment’s notice. Have your meeting places for you and your family laid out well in advance and a means to communicate to each other, and just seriously be prepared.”
As New Mexico enters fire season amid a years-long drought, Santa Fe County is one of many government bodies taking preemptive measures to prevent—and prepare for—wildfires.
The county recently adopted a longer-than-usual emergency fire prevention ordinance—90 days, as compared to the traditional 30- or 60-day ordinance, Sperling says. It prohibits campfires; open fires; burning garbage or vegetation; smoking within a county park, campground or “any wildland area”; littering “ignited smoking materials”; using off-road vehicles and motor bikes in county parks, campgrounds and wildland areas; and issuing licenses or permits for open burning. Violators may face up to 90 days in jail and/or a $300 fine.
The City of Santa Fe has also passed its own ordinance, which prohibits the sale or use of certain fireworks; using barbecues in “public parks and recreation areas”; open fires; and smoking in city parks—also punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a steeper, $500 fine.
On Tuesday, lands under management by the US Forest Service (see map) entered Stage One fire restrictions. That means fires outside of designated campgrounds and picnic areas are prohibited. So is smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle at developed recreation areas or while in an area, three feet in diameter, that’s cleared of all flammable material. Violators may face a $5,000 fine and up to six months in prison. And if that’s not enough for you to prevent forest fires—well, just remember Las Conchas.