Fire danger in Los Alamos low

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By Jennifer Garcia

Higher temperatures and late winter winds are creating conditions for wildfires, which have already burned almost 5,000 acres in the state this year, according to New Mexico State Forestry.


State Forester Arthur “Butch” Blazer is urging residents to prepare for this spring’s fire season now by thinking about how to prevent wildfires.


Blazer said the eastern and southern parts of the state already have very high fire danger because of high winds and heavy grass fuels from last year’s heavy monsoon season.


State Forestry is urging motorists to pull over in developed areas to prevent catalytic converters from sparking wildfires and should never throw burning matches or lit cigarettes to the side of the road.


In addition, homeowners should keep firewood and debris away from their buildings and keep grass and weeds cut short.


Los Alamos County residents are also being urged to make preparations to their homes for the upcoming fire season.


Fire Chief Mike Thompson is encouraging homeowners to rake the pine needles in their yards and clean out their gutters because they both can provide fuel for a wildfire, that could result in home loss or damage.


“Trim the trees so you don’t have brush real close,” Thompson said. “Plan long-range to make your house more fire wise.”


He said that replacing wood-shake roof shingles with non-combustible shingles is another way that homeowners can protect their investment.


Thompson also said that because the community of Los Alamos is very outdoor-oriented, it’s also important to keep the forest areas safe, as well.


He encouraged campers to make sure their campfires are extinguished before they leave the area.


“Our weather can change quickly. If you leave a campfire, leave it completely out. It should be cool to the touch,” Thompson said.


Right now, the fire danger in Los Alamos County is low, however, Thompson said that there are a lot of components that are factored into determining the fire danger level.


Humidity, fuel moisture and temperature are some of the components that are taken into consideration.


“Since our temperatures and humidity are low, we look at fuel moistures and what sort of moistures are in the fuel. As it does dry out, though it’s cold, their fuel moistures in the south are in the teens. That will happen up here too, as we get more moisture,” Thompson said.


Thompson also commended Los Alamos residents for calling the fire station early to report smoke sightings.


“It helps us to put out a fire quickly,” he commented. “Don’t hesitate to call.” He said that if a controlled burn is being conducted, fire dispatch will be alerted to that they can inform callers early on.


The Associated Press contributed to this story.