State Forestry warns of winter fire danger

Santa Fe, NM – While many areas of New Mexico are seeing considerable snow and rainfall this year, parts of the state are still at high risk for fire danger, according to New Mexico State Forestry.

The New Mexico State Forestry Division is urging residents, especially those living in the southeast corner of the state, to be prepared for the fire danger that comes with dry weather and windy conditions.

Recent fires in southeast New Mexico are a sign that a destructive wildfire can happen at any time of year if conditions are right. In the last month, approximately 4,460 acres of primarily grassland have burned by human-caused fires.

“The storm track we’ve seen this year has brought moisture primarily to the northern two-thirds of the state, according to New Mexico State Forester Arthur “Butch” Blazer. “While this has helped keep fire danger down in those areas, it’s also meant the southeast region has seen little rain or snow. Those storms also bring high winds across our plains, which dry out the grassy fuels so prevalent in those areas, significantly raising the fire danger.

One of the primary causes of fires this winter has been equipment use, so New Mexicans are urged to use caution when using tools or equipment that can cause sparks or expel emissions that can touch off a wildfire in areas with heavy grassy fuels.

The New Mexico State Forestry Division offers several suggestions to help prevent wildfires this winter:
• When traveling by auto, only pull over into developed areas such as rest stops, to prevent heat from catalytic converters from sparking fires in tall roadside grass.
• Residents living in rural settings should make sure grasses and weeds on their property are kept short, to help stop the spread of an oncoming grass fire.
• Keep wood and debris away from buildings on property.
• If conducting a controlled field or debris burn, make sure it is legal to do so in your area, alert local fire department authorities about burn plans and to make sure weather conditions are proper for burning and alert neighbors about the planned activity.
• Don’t throw lit matches or cigarettes to the side of a road.
• When building a campfire, use an established campfire site or be sure to remove all weeds and debris from your planned fire site. As always, have plenty of water on hand to douse the fire.