Public access was indefinitely closed to an area of national forests larger than Connecticut because extreme fire danger in the southwest has prompted by multiple wildfires in the area.
Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona are struggling with an usually hot spring with a lot of forests burning including the 23,000-acre 416 Fire near Durango, Colorado, and the 41,000-acre Buzzard Fire in west-central New Mexico. Rangers have closed the entire San Juan National Forest in southern Colorado and Santa Fe National Forest in New Mexico near Santa Fe, along with popular areas in the Tonto, Apache-Sitgreaves, Coconino and Kaibab national forests in Arizona. Evacuation orders were issued. "It’s a big inconvenience and a big economic hit to the area. We don't do it lightly," said Cam Hooley, acting public affairs officer for the San Juan National Forest near Durango.
Battle with wildfires
Wildfires could destroy neighboring forests and prompt tourists to stay away for decades until the trees grow back. Rangers have been checking trailheads and campgrounds to alert the public to the closure orders. Knowingly violating the closures brings a mandatory federal court appearance and could draw a fine of up to $5,000 and six months in prison. Between now and September, large portions of the Western states are at above-average risk for significant wildfires, forecasters warned. Last year’s fires killed 53 people, including 14 firefighters.