Cibola Seasonal Fire Common Q&A

Fire Restrictions

Why are fire restrictions or fire closures implemented?

The primary reason is to protect human life, property, and natural resources.

How do you know when restrictions are appropriate?

A number of factors drive the need for fire restrictions.  Fire managers constantly evaluate forest conditions.  When the weather is windy, dry, and warm, conditions can change quickly and we respond to those changes by implementing fire restrictions or closures.

How do you decide when fire restrictions are necessary?

Many factors are considered, including current and predicted weather, fuel moisture levels, current fire activity level, available resources (do we have enough fire fighters to assist?), the ERC (Energy Release Component) and other science-based indices. 

What is the ERC?

The ERC is a National Fire Danger Rating System that indicates how hot a fire could burn.

Why don’t you just start fire restrictions on the same date each year to make it simple?

We do not start restrictions on a specific date because conditions are different each year.  Some years, we have snow in March and April; this year, we had large fires at that time.

Why are some districts in fire restrictions while other districts are not?

The Cibola is comprised of many different landscapes and conditions vary considerably between districts.  For that reason, fire danger and fire restriction levels also vary.    

How do wildfires start on the Cibola? 

Wildfires can result from many ignition sources.  The majority of fires are started by lightning, but many are human-caused. 

Who makes the decision to go into fire restrictions?

We coordinate with the National Weather Service, other local agencies, fire districts, and Tribal representatives to decide when restrictions are needed and the appropriate level of restrictions. 

Do the Cibola’s fire restrictions apply to lands outside of the Cibola?

Cibola fire restrictions apply to National Forest lands; they do not apply to private, city, county or state lands.  Contact your local fire district to learn more about restrictions in your area. 

Fire Restriction Levels

What are the different levels of fire restrictions?

Stage I, Stage II, and Stage III (closures)

Stage I

What are Stage I Fire Restrictions? 

People MAY NOT:

  • Build, maintain, attend, or use a fire, campfire, charcoal, coal, or wood stove EXCEPT in a developed campsite or picnic area.

  • Smoke, EXCEPT inside a vehicle, building, or developed recreation site while in an area at least three feet in diameter that is cleared of vegetation and flammable materials.

  • Possess, discharge, or use any kind of firework or other pyrotechnic device.

Are camp stoves allowed in Stage I Fire Restrictions?

Yes, camp stoves with an on/off switch are allowed only in an area at least three feet in diameter that is cleared of vegetation and flammable materials.  This includes backcountry areas.

Are fireworks allowed?

Fireworks and incendiary (combustible) devices are never allowed.

Stage II

What are Stage II Fire Restrictions?

People MAY NOT:

  • Build, maintain, attend, or use a fire, campfire, charcoal, coal, or wood stove INCLUDING fires in developed campgrounds or picnic area.

  • Smoke, EXCEPT inside a vehicle, building, or a developed recreation site while in an area at least three feet in diameter that is cleared of vegetation and flammable materials.

  • Possess, discharge, or use any kind of firework or other pyrotechnic device.

  • Operate a chainsaw or other equipment from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM.

  • Discharge a firearm, air rifle, or gas gun.

  • Weld or operate a torch or device with an open flame.

  • Possess or use a motor vehicle off of the road, EXCEPT when parking in an area that is within 10 feet of the road with no vegetation, or parking overnight in a campground or trailhead.

  • Operate or use an internal or external combustion engine without a spark arrester.

  • Use explosives.

Can residents, land owners, lessees, or Forest Service special use permit holders have fires within the restricted area?

Yes, only if the fire is within a permanent structure.

Are camp stoves allowed in Stage II Fire Restrictions?

Yes, camp stoves with an on/off switch are allowed only in an area at least three feet in diameter that is cleared of vegetation and flammable materials.  This includes backcountry areas.

Are generators with an approved spark arresting device allowed?

Yes, but only within an enclosed vehicle or building or in an area that is cleared of all vegetation and flammable materials within three feet of the generator.

Is hunting allowed during Stage II fire restrictions?

Discharging a firearm is generally prohibited; however, an exemption can be made to allow people to engage in a lawful hunt pursuant to state, federal and Tribal laws and regulations.  Check with your local Forest Service office before you hunt.

Which districts of the Cibola will allow hunting while in Stage II restrictions?

The Mount Taylor and Mountainair Ranger Districts  

What about people who are working on the Cibola?

Contractors working in the forest should call their contracting officer for more information.

Stage III – Closures

What are Stage III Fire Restrictions?

Closures - these can be partial (area) closures or full closures that cover an entire district.

How do you determine when closures are needed?

Closures are needed when there is a strong potential for loss of life due to the fire danger, there is potential for extreme fire behavior, human-caused fires are starting even during Stage II fire restrictions, or fire fighters are at a critical shortage level.

Do you ever close the entire forest?

In rare circumstances when fire danger is extreme and human-caused fires are not being prevented, we may close the entire forest to public entry. This is known as a full forest closure.

Do forest closures impact anyone?

The decision to implement closures is not taken lightly since it can affect many visitors, partner agencies, and important restoration work.  Forest closures prohibit everyone from entering the forest – including Forest Service personnel, unless they are responding to a wildfire or other emergency or patrolling to ensure enforcement of the closure.

Are there any exceptions?

District Rangers have the authority to grant special waivers on an individual basis only if the waiver does not cause an excessive wildfire risk and if it is in the best interest of the forest. 

Are you planning to close any portion of the Cibola anytime soon?

There are no closures at this time.  Fire managers have carefully evaluated the conditions.  While the fire danger level is very high, conditions do not yet warrant the need for closures.  Conditions will be evaluated on a daily basis.  If closures are needed, we will give the public as much notice as possible ahead of time. 

Violations

What happens if people violate the fire restrictions?

  • Having a campfire during Stage I or Stage II fire restrictions is a violation that carries a mandatory appearance in federal court.

  • Violation of these restrictions is punishable as a Class B misdemeanor, which means a fine of up to $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, or imprisonment of up to six months, or both.

Firefighting Support

Does the Cibola have enough fire fighters to put out potential fires?

Resources from other parts of the country have been pre-positioned in the area to assist in the event of a wildfire.  These include engines, helicopters, Hotshot crews, Smoke Jumpers, and support personnel.

Drones/UAS

Are drones allowed?

Unmanned aircraft, also known as UAS or drones, pose a significant threat to pilots and firefighters. Never fly unmanned aircraft over or near fires. Find out more...

What are the safety concerns?

Air tankers and helicopters typically fly at very low altitudes, the same as drones.  UAS intrusions can potentially cause a catastrophic mid-air collision.  For that reason, aerial operations shut down entirely when a drone is spotted in the vicinity of a wildfire.

Fire Prevention

What can I do to prevent forest fires?

  • Be aware of the fire restrictions that are in place, and follow them.

  • If you smoke, use an ashtray; never throw cigarettes out the window.

  • Never have a campfire on a windy day, even if there are no fire restrictions.

  • Never abandon a campfire and be certain that it is “out cold” before you leave.

  • Adhere to the “One Less Spark” guidelines at www.readyforwildfire.org which provide easy-to-follow advice on preventing human-caused wildfires.

How Can I help protect my home from wildfires?

  • Homeowners can help create defensible space around their homes by removing flammable materials before a fire occurs; this will also help to keep the public and fire fighters safe.

  • Clean roof surfaces and gutters of pine needles, leaves, and branches.

  • Remove branches that extend within 10 feet of the chimney.

  • Maintain a non-flammable screen over the flue opening of the chimney.

  • Space landscape vegetation so that fire cannot be carried to the home.

  • Remove branches from trees to height of 15 feet.

  • Maintain a fuel break around all structures.

  • Dispose of charcoal briquettes only after soaking them in a metal pail of water.

  • Store gasoline in an approved safety can away from occupied buildings.

  • Propane tanks should be far enough away from buildings for valves to be shut off in case of fire.

  • All combustibles such as firewood and picnic tables should be kept away from structures.

Fire in the Ecosystem

Are all fires bad?

Not all fires are bad.  Forests in the southwest have evolved with fire and many species depend on fire to create the conditions they need to flourish.  Fire is a necessary part of vibrant, healthy forests.  We want to avoid unnaturally severe wildfires and their devastating effects, such as flooding.

Resources

Where can I learn more? 

Cibola National Forest and National Grasslands https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/cibola/fire

 





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