With the 4th of July holiday weekend approaching, the Sandoval County Fire Department is reminding all residents that a ban on open burning in unincorporated areas of the county remains in place.
Fire officials also are advising residents not to use fireworks in grassy areas of the county.
“We are taking these steps because of the persistent high temperatures and dry conditions that already have contributed to a busy fire season,” said Sandoval County Fire Chief James Maxon.
In a single week in June, crews from multiple agencies fought two wildfires within the confines of Sandoval County. The Cajete Fire broke out on June 15 in a portion of the Santa Fe National Forest near Jemez Springs. It burned more than 1,400 acres of forest land.
Three days later, a brush fire ignited in the vicinity of Northern Blvd. and Encino Road on the outskirts of the City of Rio Rancho, ultimately burning across more than 2,100 acres.
Throughout the month, there also have been multiple structural fires in various parts of the county. Crews stopped a house fire in Placitas from spreading into the mountains, averting what could have been a third major wildfire.
The Cajete Fire was caused by an abandoned campfire, and Forest Service officials have uncovered numerous other abandoned campfires in and around the Santa Fe National Forest. The cause of the Encino Fire still has not been determined, but fire officials stress the need for citizens’ help in keeping fires from starting.
“These incidents show why we need everyone to be careful when it comes to handling fire and fireworks, not only during the 4th of July weekend, but throughout the summer,” Chief Maxon said.
The county’s ban on burning prohibits all open flame sources such as campfires and agricultural burns. Burning in established fire rings and pits also is prohibited until further notice. Liquid-fueled or gas-fueled stoves, fireplaces within buildings, and charcoal grills at private residences are all allowed under the ban.
Chief Maxon is asking residents to adhere to the following guidelines with regard to fireworks:
"Following these guidelines will go a long way toward keeping everyone in our county safe,” said Chief Maxon, who also has the support of the county commission in this effort.
"All Sandoval County residents are asked to use extreme caution during the current summer season and remain cognizant of the potential for wildfires that can occur anywhere in the county," said Commission Chairman Don Chapman.