“This year is a different fire year because of health concerns pertaining to COVID-19,” said Mountainair District Ranger Ernest Taylor, adding, “We have had both engine crews in place and patrolling since March. We are ready.”

Taylor said fire danger is considered “high,” in both Mountainair and the Manzanos. He said there is a lot of fire fuels a the lower elevations, below 7,000 feet. “The fuel moisture levels were below average before the snow [last week].”

The area currently has a campfire restriction in place and all developed recreational areas are temporarily closed because of COVID-19, not fire danger, he said, because “we don’t want to enhance transmission.” He said the restrictions will be in effect until the public health order for COVID-19 has been re-evaluated.

Looking at long-term projections, Taylor said “We are anticipating more or less, average conditions. There is some potential [for fire] combined with spring wind that can develop rapidly. We are waiting to see what happens,” he said.

The Forest Service’s Donna Nemeth said, “On the Cibola, we are going to a full suppression strategy as an initial response for all fires.” She said there is a campfire ban in place to limit the number of human-caused fires.

On April 15, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Southwestern Region enacted a campfire restriction in response to public health concerns pertaining to COVID-19.

Igniting, building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, including charcoal grills, BBQs, coal and wood burning stoves is prohibited in all National Forest lands in New Mexico.

The restriction is intended to help prevent the depletion of first responder resources to human-caused wildfires and to reduce the risk of first responders becoming exposed to the virus.