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Public Awareness Campaign Under Way As NM Wildfire Season Ramps Up

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PHOTO: The state of New Mexico hopes a public education campaign this week helps limit the number of wildfires as fire season ramps up. Photo courtesy USDA.
PHOTO: The state of New Mexico hopes a public education campaign this week helps limit the number of wildfires as fire season ramps up. Photo courtesy USDA.
April 2, 2014

SANTA FE, N.M. - The state is hoping a public awareness campaign this week helps prevent wildfires during one of the worst droughts on record.

New Mexico Wildfire Awareness Week provides some common-sense reminders about preventing wildfires, said Dan Ware, state fire information officer for the state Forestry Division. Ware said eastern New Mexico may be at greatest risk.

"There'a a lot more grass and brush over on the east side that they haven't had for a couple of years," he said. "We've had a lackluster winter, and now that tall grass is fuel for fire."

So far this year, Ware said, nearly 100 fires have burned close to 6,000 acres of state and private land. Last year's wildfires scorched more than 190,000 acres and caused hundreds of people to evacuate their homes.

Ware said the majority of wildfires are human-caused, and that discarded cigarettes and still-burning campfires are not the main causes. He said sparks from a vehicle's exhaust system, blown tires and brakes cause many wildfires.

"We had a house burn down in Santa Fe two years ago caused by a wildfire," he said. "We found pieces of brake shoe at the ignition spot. So somebody's brakes weren't working right, they stepped heavy on the brake, and it sheared off some of the metal pieces and it touched off the fire."

Ware said vehicles should never be parked in tall grass or shrubs where fires can start because hot catalytic converters may come in contact with dry vegetation. Firewood and other flammables should be stored well away from the home and other structures, he said, and vegetation near the home should be pruned or removed to limit the amount of possible fire fuels.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - NM