Severe fire season predicted, firefighters prepare for the worst

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RUIDOSO, N.M. (KRQE) – Fire season is around the corner and it’s expected to be severe. New Mexico hasn’t had a lot of snow this year, and that has firefighters worried about a very bad fire season.

“Fire occurrence looks like this year there’s going to be more fires, larger fires, and more extreme fire behavior,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Tom Bird.

Due to the dry winter, Lincoln National Forest staff is preparing for the worst.

“As dry as it is and with the windy season coming we could definitely have some wide scale fires that we haven’t seen in the last few years,” said Ryan Whiteaker, LNF Fire staff officer.

Since there is no snow covering the forest right now, they have been able to start some fire prevention projects early.

“We’ve been doing some work around the forest with mechanical thinning and doing some mastication of some piles that have been left over from years past,” Whiteaker said.

As they work, they see the scars from the Little Bear Fire serving as a reminder of just how bad fire season can be.

“It is some history that we can look back on and say, ‘Let’s see if we can try to mitigate some of that situation and keep people safe while we’re doing it.’ Not just the firefighters, but the public in general,” Bird said.

Firefighters are also beginning to prep by taking courses at the Sierra Wildland Fire Academy, learning how weather can drastically change a situation.

“Weather is the thing that typically changes the fire behavior over the course of a day and either gets them into harm or keep them safe,” Bird explained.

They are also building ties that will help them out on the fire lines.

“We can come and learn together, teach, build our camaraderie, and it really helps us to be more successful when we are out there suppressing those wildland fires,” said Caleb Finch, chairman for Sierra Wildland Fire Academy.

Officials are encouraging residents to thin their properties before the season hits. Firefighters have already responded to a few fires in the Lincoln National Forest this year.

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