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Governor Bans Smoking Near Woods, Most Campfires As Drought Drives Wildfire Risk

New Hampshire is taking the rare step of banning most campfires and smoking near public woodlands to prevent forest fires as drought conditions get worse.

The new ban prohibits the burning of debris on public property, as well as most kinds of campfires. Also banned are the smoking of pipes, cigars or cigarettes on or near public woodlands and trails.

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Violators could face fines of up to $1,000 and have to cover the costs of putting out any wildfires they're responsible for starting.

For any fires not covered by the ban, residents can seek permits from their local fire wardens. The restriction does not apply to propane or liquid-fueled grills or camp stoves.

Gov. Chris Sununu signed the proclamation Friday after getting Executive Council approval earlier this week. It’s an option in droughts that officials say the state hasn’t used in at least 20 years.

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The ban could stay in effect as long as the dry conditions last. The drought is now rated “extreme” in some areas of southern and central New Hampshire. It may last into winter.

The White Mountain National Forest is also taking steps to prevent fires. Officials there say they've extinguished 129 unattended campfires so far this season.

Starting Friday, campfires are only allowed at certain campgrounds, within fire control devices provided by the Forest Service, like metal rings or pits.

Officials are reminding campers to completely put out their fires before leaving them behind. Embers should be soaked with water, stirred with a shovel, and left completely cold to the touch.

Fireworks and explosives are never permitted in the National Forest. Operators using chainsaws have to carry approved fire prevention equipment.

People are encouraged to report any smoke or illegal fires to forest rangers. Violators could face heavy fines.

Learn more about the drought's connections to climate change through our reporting project, By Degrees. This story was updated to include details of campfire restrictions in the White Mountains.

Annie has covered the environment, energy, climate change and the Seacoast region for NHPR since 2017. She leads the newsroom's climate reporting project, By Degrees.
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