County burn ordinance
It is a familiar situation: a drought pattern settled in, tinder-dry conditions in the forest, high spring winds, a prescribed burn out of control, the Cerro Grande Fire destroys homes.
Despite recent moisture in the area, the West is still in a drought and conditions are primed for a large-scale, destructive fire. This is precisely why the Sandoval County Fire Marshal wants a county-wide burn ordinance.
Clark “Sparkie” Speakman, who introduced the ordinance to the county commission in March, said that this ordinance is not to ban burning in the county, but to give his office some control over what is burned. “I’ve been trying to get this for ten years,” he said. He added that the county has been very lucky in the past and has avoided any significant fires started by illegal burning.
The ordinance will spell out to county residents the times that they will be allowed to burn. In the winter, it will be from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and in the summer, 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The ordinance will also specify what materials can go into a burn pile.
“You’ll be able to burn tumbleweeds and leaves, and that’s about it.” Speakman noted that there will also be provisions for agricultural burns. “It will spell out that you’ll have to have some sort of fire suppression such as a hose or shovel, not leave the fire unattended, and not exceed 3x3x3 foot piles,” he said.
In the rural portions of the county, it is common to see residents burning tires, scrap lumber, and trash in barrels. The proposal will give the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office and the fire marshal or designee the authority to issue a warning or citation. There will be a mandatory appearance in magistrate court with the possibility of a $300 fine.
“This is a standard burn ordinance, similar to what they have in Bernalillo County,” Speakman said. During times of extreme drought, Speakman noted that he will seek “no-burn” emergency ordinances if there is a clear danger of wildfire. “Those are a separate thing and will specify no burning until the fire marshal determines it is safe to do so,” he said. “We’ve done these in the past.”
Residents who would like to burn tumbleweeds or leaves should call the Sandoval County Dispatch Center to check on the status of burning. This also helps keep the local fire department informed that there may be smoke in the area of the burn.