At a news conference held today, Governor Susana Martinez announced that she proclaimed March 25 -- April 7, 2012, as Wildfire Awareness Weeks in New Mexico and urged residents and visitors to the state to be prepared for wildfires and do their part to prevent human-caused wildfires from starting.
"Unfortunately, conditions are in place for another difficult fire season," said Governor Martinez. "I urge all New Mexicans to do their part to be safe and take steps to prevent fires whenever they can. Our firefighters and emergency officials did an incredible job of keeping New Mexicans safe during last year's devastating fires, but we all have a responsibility to be aware of this year's fire dangers and the consequences of careless behavior."
New Mexico's fire danger has the potential to be just as severe as last year, which saw the two biggest fires in state history -- the Las Conchas and Donaldson Fires. For this reason, local, state, federal and tribal interagency partners continue to stress preparedness and prevention with this year's Wildfire Awareness Week theme: Where We Live, How We Live Living with Wildfire in the Southwest.
Today's news conference addressed statewide wildfire concerns and issues. Agency representatives discussed preparations for the upcoming fire season and how residents can best prevent human caused wildfires and how we must all be prepared.
"Last year's fire season resulted in the most active year on record for the State Emergency Operation Center," Homeland Security & Emergency Management Acting Secretary Greg Myers said. "We are committed to ensuring coordination between all state agencies as well as with our local, federal, and tribal partners in order to protect lives, property, and the environment."
New Mexico State Land Commissioner Ray Powell commented on how important prevention and preparation are when it comes to preserving the state's valuable trust lands.
"Healthy forests and grasslands ensure healthy watersheds, wildlife habitat, sustainable agriculture, a viable tourism industry, and a high quality of life for all New Mexicans," said New Mexico Commissioner of Public Lands Ray Powell. "It is important that each of us takes responsibility for protecting the health of our natural world by being responsible stewards of our land and this is particularly important during severe drought conditions."
Since the 2011 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 through land treatment.
This year, between January 1 and March 27, New Mexico has experienced 75 wildfires that have burned approximately 2,228 acres, including this week's Chimayo Fire, which destroyed two homes and several other structures. Last year at this time, 210 fires burned approximately 113,863 acres.
Despite this decrease, fire response agencies expect this to be a very active year for wildfire and there are steps state residents and visitors can take to reduce the potential for loss of life and property:
* Create a 30-foot defensible space zone around the home;
* Pile firewood and other flammables well away from home and other structures;
* Keep access roads free of debris and vegetation to improve access and escape in case of fire;
* Clean off needles and other debris from roofs and gutters;
* Consider constructing or renovating with fire resistant building materials;
* Prune trees near structures and remove excess ground fuels such as fallen needles, cones and branches.
While enjoying New Mexico's many forested private and public lands, it is suggested that residents and visitors:
* Know Before You go: Call the statewide toll-free Fire Restriction Hotline at 1-877-864-6985;
* Build a campfire in areas approved only such as established campgrounds with fire grills pits;
* Never leave a campfire unattended; be sure it is dead out and cold to the touch before leaving;
* Never park vehicles in tall grass or shrubs where fires can start because hot catalytic converters may come in contact with dry vegetation;
* Never toss lit cigarettes out of cars;
* Abide by smoking restrictions in forested areas;
* Keep in mind that the use of fireworks is always prohibited on all public lands including state parks or national forests.
For more information on wildfire prevention, how to create defensible space to protect lives and
property, log onto: www.nmfireinfo.com or www.firewise.org. For more information on
preparing your homes and families, visit the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security &
Emergency Management's Family Preparedness Guide: http://goo.gl/Zuams.
USDA Forest Service -- Karen Takai, PAO, Sandia Ranger District -- 505.281.3304
BLM -- Jennifer Myslivy - Fire Mitigation and Education Specialist -- 505.954.2189
NM State Forestry -- Dan Ware, PIO -- 505.476.3336
NM Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management -- Nick Piatek, PIO --505.476.0626
NM State Land Office -- Karin Stangl, PIO -- 505.827.5739
BIA -- Jose Tenorio -- Fire Prevention Technician, BIA SPA -- 505.563.3659
ABQ Fire -- Melissa Romero PIO -- 505.768.9317
Bern Co FD -- Larry Gallegos, PIO -- 505.468.127