The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989

FIRE & RESCUE

County line
No-burn law will be strictly enforced throughout the long fire season

—JACK THOMAS, CHAIRMAN, SANDOVAL COUNTY COMMISSION
While poet-songwriter Bob Dylan may have told us we don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, County fire chief Jon Tibbetts knows it doesn't take a fireman to realize our mesas and forests are at dangerously explosive levels.

With the approaching summer vacation season and even warmer, potentially drier weather, all of us need to be extra careful when working or playing near our homes, especially as we enjoy the many and varied outdoor attractions that Sandoval County offers.

A careless match, a discarded cigarette, or even a hot automobile motor or muffler could readily touch off a devastating blaze in our tinderbox-dry areas.

Firefighters and weathermen alike can readily cite bone-dry statistics. Longtime county residents, meanwhile, are hard-pressed to recall a dry spell as severe as the one we are experiencing now.

Fire levels are so elevated across our county and throughout New Mexico that the forest service has banned all types of fires and may consider closing access in many areas of our state. Sheriff John Paul Trujillo and his deputies are being extremely watchful throughout the county's 3,716 square miles. The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, too, is being especially vigilant across the four-county area of the Rio Grande bosque.

Chief Tibbetts, his staff, and volunteers in the county’s nine fire districts, meanwhile, are bracing for what could be a very long fire season.

The Sandoval County Commission took action earlier and has imposed strict bans on open burning and certain types of fireworks. That no-burn law has been in effect since early February and will remain in effect until needed precipitation is sufficient to ease drought conditions and fire dangers.

The county ordinance carries the weight—and penalty—of law. Violators will be cited and prosecuted. Once convicted, they will face fines and up to ninety days in jail.

The county law is quite clear. Open fires of any kind are strictly prohibited in the unincorporated, non-tribal areas of Sandoval County, unless a permit is first obtained from the county fire marshal's office. Even then, Marshal James Maxon says fire dangers throughout Sandoval County are so elevated that his office won't even consider approving burning permits until weather conditions improve and fire danger is lowered.

The ban includes agricultural or weed burning, campfires, and all other types of open fires. Even woodstoves or charcoal-briquette barbecues are prohibited, but outside propane stoves or grills are allowed.

Most municipalities in Sandoval County have followed the county's action and have enacted similar bans. Tribal governments within Sandoval County, at the request of the fire marshal's office, have taken similar steps to protect their sovereign pueblo and tribal areas.

The county's ban also strictly prohibits the use of all types of fireworks that produce a visible or audible effect by combustion, deflagration, or detonation. That ban includes the use of such popular fireworks as firecrackers, bottle rockets, and aerial spinners and rockets. Even the use of approved fireworks should be limited to areas that are paved or otherwise barren of all vegetation and users must always have a source of water available in the event of an emergency.

The county sheriff's office will readily cite anyone violating the no-burn law. Yet it's the responsibility of all of us to exercise caution in order to protect lives and property, as well as the scenic wonders that make Sandoval County unique.

Call 911 if you see a fire that appears to be out of control or know someone who may be violating the county's no-burn ordinance.

Questions or comments for Commissioner Thomas can be mailed to him in care of Sandoval County Administrative Offices, P.O. Box 40, Bernalillo.

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