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Extreme N.M. forest fire risk: “We’re at the mercy of Mother Nature”

After an extremely dry winter season, officials with the Lincoln National Forest Service remain on high alert.

“You know, right now we’re at the mercy of Mother Nature,” said David Bales, deputy fire staff for the Lincoln National Forest. “We continue down this drought and this path.”

Stage II fire restrictions are in effect for the Smokey Bear and the Sacramento districts. That means smoking, shooting, explosives and open flames are not allowed.

However, ABC-7 observed two people using their firearms in one restricted area below.

“Don’t do anything stupid,” cautioned Dave Venable, the mayor of Cloudcroft. “It only takes one person to do something really wrong.”

Stage I restrictions are also in place for the Guadalupe District, meaning campfires are only allowed in designated campgrounds.

“I’m trying not to provide fuel should there be a fire,” said Tom Seetch, who has lived in Cloudcroft less than a year.

The Denver transplant has been trimming away dead branches to avoid creating fuel for fires.

“I think we’d be in real trouble,” he told ABC-7. “As you can see, there’s a lot of big trees all over the place. We live in the mountains, we live on the edge of the National Forest.”

ABC-7 also observed cigarette butts tossed dangerously close to dry brush.

“Everything’s dried out,” Bales said. “Our forest fuels are just way more receptive to a fire start.”

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