County returns to full fire ban

By Paula Cronic: PNT Staff Writer

After hearing concerns from local area fire department chiefs at Tuesday’s Roosevelt County Board of Commissioners special meeting, commissioners voted to return back to January’s proclamation of a complete fire ban for the county.

The motion was passed 4-1.

County Administrator Charlene Hardin said after the stand-by amendment was put into place along with the current fire ban at the county commissioner meeting on July 18, many citizens called her office unsure of what exactly constituted a stand-by.

“It created a lot of confusion for myself, the fire departments and citizens not understanding what was the rule of the stand-by,” Hardin said.
Commissioners heard arguments from fire chiefs in favor of and against the lifting of the current fire ban.

Portales Assistant Fire Department Chief Darwin Chenault said the county is in better shape since January with higher humidity and lighter winds than in previous months and said he would like to see the ban lifted.

“Personally, I think we need to have the ban stay because we don’t have enough manpower and it’s been real dry,” Arch Fire Department Chief Richard Leal said.

Garland Creighton, Elida fire chief agreed, stressing Elida has been extremely dry lately.

Most of the fire chiefs were in agreement on the issue concerning stand-bys which were causing their departments and the citizens the most confusion.

“Most of the chiefs here are not in the position to stand-by at any burn,” Portales Fire Department Chief Raul Muniz said. “Myself and my department’s position is that we can’t do it.”

Liability was the main reason given for not doing stand-bys and Commission Chairman Dennis Lopez agreed.
“Initially I didn’t think of the liability aspect of it and that’s the most obvious,” Lopez said.

For now, there seems to be some resolution to the issue.
“We’ve gone back to where we were in January so it kind of puts everybody on the same page now,” Hardin said.

Commissioner Tom Clark was the dissenting vote. He believed the stand-by fire ban should have been kept intact with each fire department deciding upon whether or not to take stand-by calls.