Historic drought conditions heighten risk of potentially active, dangerous, wildfire season, says New Mexico Governor at launch of wildfire awareness week, highlights 6,000 acres burned this year by almost 100 fires
ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico
March 31, 2014
– Interagency Partners Stress Preparedness and Prevention Ahead of the 2014 Fire Season
Today Governor Susana Martinez announced that March 30th through April 5th is New Mexico Wildfire Awareness Week, and called upon residents and visitors to continue doing their part to prevent and be prepared for wildfires.
“Continuing historic drought conditions heighten the risk of what already has the potential to be another active and dangerous wildfire season,” said Governor Martinez. “Last year’s wildfire season was very active and destructive, and there are many important steps we as New Mexicans can take at state, federal, tribal, local and individual levels to prevent and be prepared for wildfires. Preparedness is a key element this year as firefighters and agencies across the state stand ready to protect our communities and natural resources from wildfires.”
Various federal, state, tribal and local agency representatives joined Governor Martinez to discuss preparations for the upcoming fire season and how residents can best prevent human-caused wildfires and how we must all be prepared. The 2013 fire season was brief but very active, with numerous fires. More than 190,000 burned acres on public and private lands. The Silver, Thompson Ridge and Tres Lagunas Fires forced the evacuation of hundreds of residents from their homes. Since the 2013 fire season, interagency partners have worked to train hundreds of firefighters in wildland fire skills, identify grant funding for equipment and teach landowners how to reduce their wildfire threat by reducing overabundant vegetation on their property.
So far this year, nearly 100 fires have burned close to 6,000 acres of state and private land, including the Pino Fire, which began this past Friday and crews are still working on. This fire was human-caused and the landowner has been issued a citation for the improper use of fire. As seen with the Pino Fire, failure to respect the potential damage that fire can cause has serious consequences. Those consequences can be financial, or include jail time, damage to property, injury or even loss of life.
There are many steps that families and communities can take to reduce the potential for loss of life and property due to wildfires, including:
The New Mexico Department of Health suggests New Mexicans use the 5-3-1 Mile Visibility Method to decide when it’s safe to be outside. The New Mexico Environmental Public Health Tracking website provides information on smoke safety and how to avoid breathing in smoke at https://nmtracking.org/fire.
The American Red Cross also has an app available with for national active fire and fire preparedness information that is available for free in the iTunes or Google Play Stores.
The fiscal year 2015 state budget that Governor Martinez recently signed includes many initiatives to better prepare for, and coordinate response to, what may be an unusually active and dangerous 2014 wildfire season. Among these are: funding to make the “Returning Heroes” program permanent, which hires and trains military veterans as wild-land firefighters. During the program’s pilot phase in 2013, these fire crews were assigned to more than a dozen wildfires in New Mexico and were dispatched to other fires in the Western United States. The program is a collaborative effort between New Mexico State Forestry, the Department of Veterans Services, the Department of Corrections and the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions. The state budget signed by Governor Martinez also includes nearly $10 million in funding for projects such as watershed restoration and protection, forest thinning in wild-land urban interface areas, as well as other capital improvement projects designed to help further protect New Mexico’s families, communities and natural resources.