ALAMOGORDO — Some national forests in Arizona and New Mexico are relaxing fire restrictions and reopening, thanks to a strong start to the annual rainy season in the southwest U.S.
The monsoon has delivered much-needed moisture to the parched region and relief from scorching temperatures. Forecasters say Arizona has a good chance of getting above-average rain through the season that runs through September. New Mexico has equal chances of above, below and normal rainfall.
Two national forests that border New Mexico's most populated areas — the Santa Fe and the Cibola forests — along with the Lincoln and Carson forests largely will reopen Friday after being closed because of wildfire danger. That means residents and visitors once again will be able to hit the hiking, biking and horse riding trails, and camp there.
Some pockets will remain closed because of active wildfires, or the threat of flash flooding or trees falling.
Restrictions across the forests and other public land vary on whether campfires are allowed without limits or only in developed areas. Bandelier National Monument also will ease fire restrictions Friday.
The Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in eastern Arizona is rescinding all fire restrictions Friday, but officials urged visitors to avoid lighting campfires in hot, dry conditions.
Lightning from monsoon storms also can ignite new blazes. Eight small fires were reported in Arizona and New Mexico on Wednesday, two of which were caused by lightning.
A dozen large wildfires are burning in the two states in what has so far been a historic start to the fire season due to hot, dry and windy conditions brought on by drought and climate change.
This article originally appeared on Las Cruces Sun-News: Lincoln National Forest among public lands reopening in New Mexico