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BernCo considers burn ban, will hold hearing

A fire lights up the Albuquerque bosque south of Tingley Beach in January 2016. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Bernalillo County commissioners will conduct a public hearing Tuesday to consider a ban on the use of open fires, campfires and smoking in unincorporated areas of the county. According to county officials, evidence at the public hearing will determine if extreme or severe drought conditions continue to exist within the unincorporated areas.

In a memo to commissioners, Deputy County Manager for Health and Public Safety Greg Perez said fire danger across the county “is expected to be very high to extreme with the fire season starting earlier than normal.”

Current extreme drought conditions, above normal temperatures, below normal precipitation and below normal winter snowpack has resulted in the increased fire danger, Perez stated.

A National Weather Service forecast outlook indicates that precipitation in April and May in central and northern New Mexico will most likely range from slightly below to below average, and temperatures will mostly likely range from above to well above average.

If imposed by commissioners, the order would prohibit smoking except in enclosed buildings, within vehicles equipped with ashtrays, and on paved or surfaced roads, developed recreation sites, or while stopping in an area that is barren or cleared of all flammable material. It would also prohibit campfires and recreational fires and ban heating and cooking fires except cooking or heating devices that use kerosene, white gas or propane as a fuel in an improved camping area that is cleared of flammable vegetation for at least 30 feet and has a water source.

Officials in Colfax, Lincoln and Curry counties have imposed similar burn bans.