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Wildfire prevention tips and how to safeguard your home

SOUTHERN NEW MEXICO (KVIA) -- As southern New Mexico faces ongoing wildfires, officials are urging residents to take critical steps to prevent human-caused ignitions. As the region faces dry heat and strong winds, it is highly important to be prepared.

The New Mexico Forestry Division reports that 70 percent of wildfires in the state are caused by humans. George Ducker, communications coordinator with the New Mexico Forestry Division told ABC-7 it’s about making good choices with the things that we do as humans that might accidentally cause fires, “Preparedness comes from making smart decisions,” he says.

Residents are advised to follow these key precautions:

1. Unattended campfires: Always check fire restrictions before heading outdoors. Restrictions often indicate if campfires are prohibited in the area.

2. Roadside starts: Ensure tow chains are tight underneath your vehicle when taking RVs or ATVs out. Dragging chains can cause sparks, which may ignite grass fires.

3. Mechanical tools: Be cautious when working with tools outside on your property, as these can also start fires.

4. Smoking: If you smoke, make sure to step it out or put it out properly. Do not throw cigarette butts out of your car window. If you're in the woods, field dress it and dispose of it in a trash can.

“The kinds of fires that happen in the borderland region are not dissimilar from the big fire we saw in Texas a couple of months ago,” said Ducker, ”That was a grass fire, fed by wind, and it moved fast. The grass component is the biggest player.”

Creating defensible space around homes can significantly reduce the risk of fire damage. Clearing dry, flammable vegetation around your home prevents embers from igniting your property. “The most important area is the five foot zone directly around your home,” says Ducker, “Studies have shown that the reason many homes burn in a wildfire event is because there are tree limbs or shrubs or grasses or leaves left over from the winter and spring. And these are immediately touching the home,” he continues.

Ducker also emphasizes to check your gutters and window panes, even above your door frames and your eaves and your air vents.

Jenny Green, communications specialist and interim public information officer for the New Mexico Department of Agriculture says their sector also plays a big role in wildfire prevention, “We stress, proceeding with caution when evacuating farm animals and other livestock from an area, but also creating a defensible space on farms and ranches might mean things like parking farm equipment away from combustible materials such as haystacks or fuel tanks,” Green told ABC-7. She says adequate water supply, like an irrigation ditch or a water tank can also help you safeguard your operation.

The New Mexico Forestry Division has a program called, “Ready, Set, Go.” Ducker says this is about being fully prepared before an evacuation event, “Evacuations can be scary. They can be stressful. So the best way to cut down on that stress is to kind of prepare ahead of time.” Ducker recommends creating a “to go” bag with essential items such as important documents, prescription medicines, batteries, and a change of clothes.

“When an evacuation happens, you know, you may only have like 10 minutes to really get out of there,” Ducker says if an evacuation notice is placed for your area, you should leave as quickly and safely as possible. 

The alert for wildfire is high through the summer, Ducker recommends checking fire outlooks put out by National Interagency Fire Center daily, “These are just like weather predictions. Folks look into fire predictions as well, like fire season predictions. And right now we do have kind of an elevated fire potential through this month, all the way through August. That potential is in southern New Mexico and kind of following the Rio Grande north in the Bosque area.”

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Isabella Martinez


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