Dry conditions throughout New Mexico could set up for busy fire season

Wildfires

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Even with the snowstorm this week, Cibola National Forest officials said they’re seeing the driest conditions in at least six years. That has rangers thinking about reducing the fire danger really early this year.

Fire Staff Officer with the Cibola National Forest Matt Rau said just about all of New Mexico is considered abnormally dry. “99.5% of our state is in severe drought and then all the way to the highest level of the drought index, 54% is in exceptional drought status,” said Rau. 

However, that may not be the case this year. Snow totals are down all over the state. In the East Mountains, they’ve only seen about two-thirds of the snow they normally get and it’s even worse in the southern half of the state. And because last winter was a good one, there’s more grass and shrubs which equates to more fire fuel.

With the ongoing concerns, Rau said they plan on starting prescribed burns throughout the state in the next week or two. Meanwhile the “Forest Stewards Guild,” a nonprofit organization that partners with the state to maintain the forests, conducted their own prescribed burn Wednesday in Glorieta.

“There’s nutrients that’ve been cycling in the soils by doing this work, and we’re also adding vigor through increased nutrients, water, and sunlight to the remaining trees and we hope that they’re more successful in the hot dry future,” said Eytan Krasilovsky, the deputy director with the nonprofit.    

Eytan said their crews will continue doing prescribed burns throughout the northern part of the state over the next few months leading up to what is the traditional fire season. Officials with the National Forests in the state said they’re always looking for volunteers to help them maintain the forests. There’s also a proposed bill in the Roundhouse this session that would make it easier for property owners to conduct prescribed burns on their land to help reduce fire danger.

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