Los Alamos County Moves To Level II Fire Restrictions

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Los Alamos Fire Department’s Fire Marshal Wendy Servey announced today that she is proceeding to Level II Fire Restrictions for Los Alamos County, effective immediately. Servey said the decision was made in partnership with LAFD’s Wildland Division after reviewing the potential threat of wildfire.

“While Los Alamos has enjoyed a few rain showers in the past week, there is still a significant threat from wildfire, coupled with ongoing drought conditions and an increase in dry lightning strikes in forested areas,” Servey said, noting that there are currently active fires burning in the Leche, Canada Ancha and Pot Creek areas.

“We are asking our local citizens and visitors to continue to be vigilant as we work through another active wildfire season, especially with so many individuals out using the trails or recreating in open space for exercise and stress relief during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Servey said, “Take extra precautions for fire and trail safety. All fires in open spaces are prohibited, and continued access to our trails and the surrounding forest will greatly depend upon residents abiding within these fire restrictions.”

Servey said that the public can help LAFD by being on the lookout for wildfires and reporting them quickly, before they grow out of control.

“If you’re out on the trails, watch for signs of smoke or fire in the forests around the County and report anything suspicious by calling Emergency Dispatch at 911. If you have a cell phone and are able to have service and report your latitude and longitude coordinates, that allows us to respond rapidly and deploy fire resources,” Servey said. 

Servey said that Level II builds upon the Baseline Fire Restrictions implemented last month, with the main difference being that charcoal or barbeque fire are now banned at County parks or at developed campsites, and chainsaw fire safety measures and use in forested areas has become more restrictive. 

The following activities are NOT ALLOWED during Level II Fire Restrictions:

  • Smoking is prohibited. Exemption: Allowed in a designated area, enclosed vehicle or in an area of at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all combustible, flammable material

  • All types of fireworks are prohibited on County public lands and open spaces. Note: Fireworks are permitted on private land, except for aerial devices and ground audible devices (as defined by New Mexico Statute 60-2C-7); LAFD strongly recommends fireworks on private land only be used on concrete or dirt surface barren/cleared of all combustible, flammable material and with a water source located nearby.

  • Welding or operating an acetylene or other torch with an open flame is prohibited, unless under an approved permit issued by the Fire Marshal’s office, or, if operating under an approved permit issued by LANL Fire Protection and the Fire Marshal

  • Operating or using any internal combustion engine without a spark arresting device properly installed, maintained and in working order is prohibited

  • Operating a chainsaw in a forested area is prohibited unless the following conditions are in place: (1) using a chainsaw equipped with an approved spark arresting device, (2) having ready access to a chemical water-pressurized fire extinguisher, and (3) having ready access to a round point shovel with an overall length of at least 35 inches available for use

  • Use of firearms or target shooting on public, County lands and open spaces is prohibited. Exemption: Discharging of firearms is allowed by law enforcement and government agencies at designated shooting ranges; Private shooting ranges such as the Sportsman’s Club are permitted to continue to operate.
  • Open burning is prohibited on private, County, public lands and open spaces. The burning of trash or rubbish is prohibited. No open burn permits will be issued by the Fire Marshal’s Office during fire restrictions. Exemption:  Prescribed burns for wildland management by an authorized federal, state or local agency requires approved permit by the Fire Marshal’s Office.

  • Bonfires are prohibited. No bonfire permits will be issued by the Fire Marshal’s Office during fire restrictions.

  • Building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire, charcoal, coal or wood stove, including any fire contained in portable devices such as a grill or chiminea, within all County parks, on developed or undeveloped campgrounds on County land, specifically Camp May Campground and open spaces, is prohibited.

Exemptions:  The following exemptions apply to private use at one- and two-family dwellings, if there is no “Red Flag” warning in effect (info on warning status is posted daily on the LAFD website):

  1. Recreational fires – Allowed if using a spark arrestor in a permanently constructed fixed fireplace, ring or grate no larger than 3 feet in diameter and 2 feet in height; recommended to be located at least 25 feet away from structures 
  2. Portable outdoor fireplaces, outdoor heater appliances and chimineas – allowed if using a spark arrestor; recommended to be located 15 feet away from structures
  3. Outdoor (NG) and liquid petroleum (LPG-propane) gas stoves and grills – Allowed if equipped with shut-off valves; recommended to be located 3 feet away from all structures.

An exemption does not absolve an individual or an organization from liability or responsibility for any fire started from the exempted activity. 

“It’s our goal to keep trails and open spaces available to the public to use, especially during this time of the COVID-19 emergency when they are so popular,” Servey said, “However, we need the public’s support and cooperation. Check for Red Flag warnings before lighting your backyard fire pit or fireplace; closely monitor and have an available water source nearby when using barbeque grills at home, purchase and use only permitted fireworks for your 4th of July celebration, and actively observe conditions around you when out on the trails,” she said, “These are just a few ways you can help LAFD keep our community protected from the threat of wildfire this summer.”

Servey said she has been impressed by the amount of brush, trees and debris clearing that has already visibly been occurring the last two months on private properties, as residents work on implementing defensible space measures around their property during the “stay at home” executive order. 

”LAFD thanks everyone for proactively taking steps to create a safer boundary around homes, which helps our firefighters’ response times when fighting wildfires on private property,” she said. 

Residents are welcome to contact her office at 662-8305 for non-emergency calls and any questions about Level II restrictions, Servey said. 

“Working together, we can make it safely through another wildfire season here in Los Alamos County,” she said. 

Residents can also follow the USFS and NM State Forestry Restrictions when traveling outside of Los Alamos. Visit www.nmforestry.com or https://firerestrictions.us/for more information. 

National Parks, Monuments, Preserves and Wildlife Refuges host year-round fire restrictions. Contact Bandelier National Monument and Valles Caldera National Preserve before visiting for specific information.