Firefighters warn of high-risk fire season

Christina Calloway

Christina Calloway

PNT senior writer

ccalloway@pntonline.com

Portales and Clovis fire departments are preparing for another high-alert fire season and officials want to make sure residents and farmers are prepared.

Portales battalion chief Mike Golden said this season is definitely more high-risk for fires because of the low humidity and the increase in winds.

Residents in both counties are asked by the fire officials to keep their grass mowed short and weeds cut low as well as learn the basics of fire safety like having exit drills.

“Short grass burns a lot cooler than knee-high grass and weeds, that’s a no-brainer,” Golden said.

Residents with flammable trees like evergreens should be very cautious because they can burn extremely fast, according to officials.

Golden also suggests finding out current fire conditions frequently and asks people to be on alert when the humidity gets down low.

Battalion Chief Mike Nolen with the Clovis Fire Department says they are following a new county ordinance that bans most burning.

With some agricultural exceptions, people must get permission to burn on their land and they can only do so when winds are below 15 mph.

Retired Battalion Chief Mickey Hargrove of the Portales Fire Department said that now that most of the crops have been harvested, it’s mainly the grass land and Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land that is considered the bigger problem.

“Native and CRP grasses are the biggest kicker right now, they can get very volatile after the first freeze hits,” Golden said in agreement with Hargrove.

Hargrove wants farmers to make smarter choices because of the drought.

“Farmers know they shouldn’t be doing any welding or cutting or grinding outside, just a spark can cause a fire in this low-humidity situation,” Hargrove said.

In addition to making public service announcements about fire season, Golden said the department is making sure their equipment is fully-functional and working to getting what they need.

“The chief is trying really hard to replace our ladder truck,” Golden said.

Fire Coordinator Mike Kube of Curry County says they also plan on running public service announcements.

Kube says they’re really pushing Curry County’s “Ready Set Go” booklet to residents because it has been customized for them with pictures and other features.

Last June, a Muleshoe grass fire burned more than 3,000 acres. Another grass fire near Melrose burned about 5,000 acres.

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