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
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
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
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.