Governor asks for more federal resources as wildfires burn across NM - Albuquerque Journal

Governor asks for more federal resources as wildfires burn across NM

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, left, talks with Connie Guinn, of Ledoux, and her granddaughter Bella Guerrero Munoz at the emergency evacuation center in Las Vegas, New Mexico, on Monday. The Calf Canyon and Hermits Peak fire complex has forced evacuation of Mora and San Miguel counties, including Guinn and her family. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE — With fires still burning across New Mexico despite several days of cooler temperatures, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Monday issued an emergency fire order calling on city and county leaders to enact local fireworks bans.

The governor, who met with residents at a Las Vegas shelter who had left their homes in advance of approaching flames, also asked federal officials for more resources and said 93% of the state was experiencing severe drought conditions.

But a Lujan Grisham spokeswoman said it would be up to legislative leaders to determine whether to revisit a longstanding law preventing the governor from banning fireworks statewide.

“Our focus right now is on supporting communities across the state being affected by wildfires and on saving lives,” the governor’s spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett said. “I would defer to the Legislature for their thoughts on the standing statute that they have maintained.”

Legislative attempts in past years — most recently during the administration of former Gov. Susana Martinez — to expand the authority of the state, cities and counties to ban all fireworks have been unsuccessful.

But at least one top state lawmaker said Monday that legislators should consider giving the governor more authority to restrict fireworks in times of extreme drought and fire danger.

“It seems to me that banning fireworks is something we should consider,” said Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque. “I just think we’re going to have to allow governments to do things differently because we’re dealing with climate change.”

Under current New Mexico law, it’s up to cities and counties to prohibit the sale and use of certain types of fireworks — including aerial devices such as rockets and Roman candles.

Local governments can not issue an outright ban on all fireworks, but they can, in certain cases, restrict firework use to areas that are paved or barren or have water nearby.

Proclamations declaring extreme drought conditions and limiting fireworks must be issued at least 20 days before the Fourth of July. Such proclamations can only last for 30 days, though they can be renewed upon expiring.

AJ Forte, the executive director of the New Mexico Municipal League, said mayors around New Mexico would be participating in a remote meeting this week to discuss the wildfires and possible local-level responses.

A draft ordinance will also be crafted so that mayors and city councils can discuss fireworks restrictions in the comings weeks, Forte said.

Meanwhile, the governor and three members of the state’s congressional delegation — US. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez and U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan — spoke with officials from several different federal agencies Monday about the various wildfires burning in New Mexico.

During the call, Lujan Grisham requested 25 additional support officers to help coordinate emergency response and recovery efforts, according to the Governor’s Office.

The governor and State Forester Laura McCarthy also asked for additional ground crews to be dispatched to New Mexico, especially with more strong winds expected later this week.

Last week, Lujan Grisham issued emergency orders freeing up to $750,000 in state funds for five different counties — Mora, Valencia, Lincoln, Colfax and San Miguel.

She also called on New Mexicans to heed mandatory evacuation orders and brace for a long fire season, saying more than 200 structures had already been destroyed by fires this year and an additional 900 structures were being threatened by a pair of large fires that merged and had burned more than 56,000 acres northwest of Las Vegas.

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