Clovis sunsets are smokin’

A haze of smoke purportedly from a fire in the Capitan Mountains hovered over Clovis on Monday afternoon. CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth.

By Darrell Todd Maurina: CNJ staff writer

People looking to the southwest on Monday afternoon may have noticed a dark sky and smelled smoke.

The smoke wasn’t coming from anywhere nearby, however — the blazes were three hours away in the Capitan Mountains, according to Battalion Chief Kevin Crouch of the Clovis Fire Department.

“I’m looking at a visual satellite map and that appears to be where the smoke is coming from,” Crouch said about 5 p.m. on Monday.

Having smoke from forest fires drift so far that it reaches eastern New Mexico isn’t common, Crouch said, but it’s happened at least once before in the last five years.

According to Associated Press reports, lightning ignited the Capitan fire west of Roswell. A second fire in the Gallinas Mountains in western New Mexico started when someone built a campfire in an area where campfires are banned.

Mike Golden, a firefighter with the Portales Fire Department, said the fires should be a warning to area residents.

“Because of the increased rain, we definitely have increased fuel,” Golden said. “Now we have experienced many days without rain, which has dried out the fuel and increased the fire danger from what started out as moderate risk and now is what I would consider high.”

Golden said anyone who wants to do a controlled burn should call their local fire department first.

“We can tell them if today is a good day or a bad day,” Golden said. “If they are going to be doing campfires they need to be sure they have a bucket of water immediately available to put it out.”