Commissioners OK burn ban

Alisa Boswell

Roosevelt County commissioners voted Tuesday to approve a resolution banning open-fire burning for the next 45 days.

The resolution puts into effect a standing county fire burn ban.

County Manager Charlene Webb said the resolution will ban all open-flamed fires, such as trash, tumbleweed and other debris burns and uncovered fire pits or camp fires.

She said residents can still use covered charcoal and barbecue grills.

“Agricultural burning is an exception but they have to call the fire department first,” Webb said.

Portales Fire Chief Gary Nuckols asked the commission to pass the resolution. He said many west Texas counties and Curry County have recently enacted such fire restrictions because of the severe dry conditions.

“As a county, I think we should be proactive in making our own resolutions,” Nuckols told commissioners Tuesday morning.

Commissioners expressed concerns at Tuesday’s monthly meeting to Nuckols about restricting people’s freedoms with their own property before absolutely necessary.

“It’s very important to me to respect people’s freedoms,” Commissioner Kendell Buzard told Nuckols at the Tuesday meeting, saying he didn’t want to be unfair by enacting the resolution.

The resolution passed unanimously.

Nuckols assured commissioners he understood their viewpoint but said drought conditions are already severe and would only become worse if no rain comes in the next month.

“Based on what we’re looking at, the U.S. seasonal drought outlook, it’s pretty bleak,” Nuckols said later that day. “Conditions really haven’t changed much since this time last year. I felt it was time to start thinking about that.”

Nuckols said he spoke to New Mexico state forestry officials in February, who told him that there were going to be no restrictions placed on New Mexico residents unless there were a certain number of man-made fires.

He said Curry County implemented its resolution banning open fires the day after he spoke to forestry officials, so he began to talk to Webb about bringing an appeal for a resolution to commissioners.

“It boils down to being proactive rather than reactive to a situation we know exists already,” Nuckols said. “We did receive some minimal moisture throughout the winter months but with the winds and the high temperatures we’re seeing, that moisture is pretty much gone.”

Nuckols said it is important for neighboring counties to take the same precautions so everyone’s lives and properties can be protected.

“All I can really look at is predictions from the National Weather Service and things such as that and base a good, sound decision off of that,” Nuckols said.