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Fire Chiefs Warn of Increased Danger

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PORTALES – Portales and Clovis fire departments are preparing for another high-alert fire season and officials want to make sure residents and farmers are prepared.

Portales Battalion Chief Mike Golden said this season is definitely a higher risk for fires because of the low humidity and the increase in winds.

Residents in both counties are asked by the fire officials to keep their grass mowed short and weeds cut low as well as learn the basics of fire safety like having exit drills.

“Short grass burns a lot cooler than knee-high grass and weeds, that’s a no-brainer,” Golden said.

Residents with flammable trees such as evergreens should be very cautious because they can burn extremely fast, according to officials.

Golden also suggests finding out current fire conditions frequently, and he asks people to be on alert when the humidity gets low.

Battalion Chief Mike Nolen with the Clovis Fire Department says a new county ordinance bans most burning.

With some agricultural exceptions, people must get permission to burn on their land, and they can do so only when winds are below 15 mph.

Retired Battalion Chief Mickey Hargrove of the Portales Fire Department said that now that most crops have been harvested, it’s mainly the grassland and Conservation Reserve Program land that is considered the bigger problem.

“Native and CRP grasses are the biggest kicker right now, they can get very volatile after the first freeze hits,” Golden said in agreement with Hargrove.

Hargrove wants farmers to make smarter choices because of the drought.

“Farmers know they shouldn’t be doing any welding or cutting or grinding outside; just a spark can cause a fire in this low-humidity situation,” Hargrove said.

In addition to making public service announcements about fire season, Golden said the department is making sure its equipment is fully functional.
— This article appeared on page C01 of the Albuquerque Journal

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