Brushfire closed Navajo Lake campground Saturday

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A brushfire at Navajo Lake State Park Saturday displaced some campers from the Cottonwood Campground and sent one man to the hospital due to smoke inhalation, according to the state’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department.

Officials say there were no serious injuries. The camper who suffered smoke inhalation was treated and released. The cause is under investigation. 

Campers were escorted back to the six affected sites to collect their property. The release said displaced campers were offered four free nights of camping.

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Farmington resident Judy Miller was camping at campsites well above the evacuated riverfront campground and said their group's camp sites – and the annual Fourth of July festivities organized by the Elks Lodge, were unaffected.

“It didn’t bother us at all,” Miller said Sunday. 

With smoke from other regional brushfires already in the air, Miller said the group's first notification the Cottonwood Campground fire had happened was a phone call to another camper around 4 p.m. Saturday asking if the group was OK.

State park managers are using caution due to the dry conditions.

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“We’ll reopen Cottonwood Campground in about five or six days,” State Parks Director Christy Tafoya said in the department's Saturday evening press release. “We want the area to be completely safe for our visitors, and right now a few areas are still smoldering.” 

Fire restrictions were placed on Cottonwood Campground on June 27 due to increased fire danger, banning open fires, the use of charcoal and even smoking. 

State Park officials reminded campers in places where there are no restrictions to completely extinguish campfires with water “until the hissing and steaming stops” and make sure the embers, sticks and coal are all wet. A shovel should then be used to mix ashes with dirt and water. The ashes should not release noticeable heat with a hand held over the fire pit and its stones.

As a final safety tip, the release states, “Use your bare hand to feel the materials. Do not stick your hand in the ashes! Hold your hand about an inch above the debris.”