BLM implements fire restrictions across northern New Mexico, including San Juan County

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — With conditions worsening by the day, the federal Bureau of Land Management became the latest government agency to implement fire restrictions across northern New Mexico, announcing prohibitions on April 27 that apply in several counties, including San Juan County.

Other counties included in the order, which took effect immediately, are Colfax, Harding, McKinley, Mora, Quay, Rio Arriba, San Miguel, Sandoval, Santa Fe, Taos and Union counties, according to a news release from the agency.

The order prohibits visitors from building, maintaining, attending or using a fire; campfire; or charcoal, coal or wood stove on BLM land, including in campgrounds and picnic areas. Stoves that are fueled by pressurized liquid or gas that can be turned off are permitted in areas that have been cleared of flammable materials for a distance at least 10 feet in diameter.

The order prohibits smoking except within an enclosed vehicle or building, developed sites and areas or while stopped in an area at least 3 feet in diameter that is barren cleared of all flammable materials. The use of chainsaws or any other internal- or external-combustion engine without a properly installed spark arrester, a chemical pressurized fire extinguisher of at least 8 ounces and a round-point shovel at least 36 inches in length also are prohibited.

Visitors to BLM lands also are forbidden to posses or use a motor vehicle off roads, except on routes that are open to OHV travel and except when parking in an area devoid of vegetation within 10 feet of the road.

The news release also states that any "hot work" conducted by authorized contractors or permittees for, by or on BLM land will follow permit stipulations provided by the agency.

A statewide order already has forbidden the use of exploding targets and fireworks on all BLM lands in New Mexico.

The BLM order followed an announcement on April 23 by New Mexico State Forester Laura McCarthy that she was banning open burns across the state and putting other fire restrictions in place. And on April 22, San Juan County officials announced they were placing new restrictions on open burns.

As of April 26, 68% of New Mexico was characterized as being in extreme or exceptional drought, the two worst classifications, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Almost 96% of the county is in severe or extreme drought.

Additionally, extremely windy conditions were expected to prevail across most of New Mexico on April 29, with all but a few locations in the state included in a red flag warning issued by the National Weather Service in Albuquerque. Winds of 25 to 30 mph were expected in San Juan County, with gusts reaching as high as 40 mph.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or Support local journalism with a digital subscription: