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Environment| Environment

The New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Resources Department, EMNRD, is warning the public of the dangers of improperly disposing of ashes to stop wildfires this winter. New Mexico has seen 11 wildfires in the past year (adding up to 500 acres) and one of them was started by hot ashes. ENMRD says the state is more prone to wildfires than usual due to wind and ongoing drought conditions.

There is no fire season. Everything is so dry due to the current climate. 100 percent of the state is currently in drought. Wendy Mason, EMNRD Wildfire Prevention and Communications Coordinator, said that areas in northern New Mexico are in severe to extreme drought conditions.

Mason recently stated that an ash-caused fire broke out in Mora County, 25 acres of which was during the Christmas holiday weekend. She stated that firefighters were able to contain the fire, but that it could have been worse.

Mason stated that 25 acres could have easily been lost in wind and transformed into 250 acres or 2500 acres. This could pose a threat to homes.

She stated that wind gusts, even small ones, can carry hot embers for a long distance and spark a fire. Mason states that nine out 10 wildfires are human-caused. According to the National Fire Safety Administration (NFSA), more than 11,000 fires are started each year by hot, embers and ashes.

EMNRD offers these tips to campers, homeowners, and others:

  • Allow the ashes to cool in your fireplace or wood stove for at least two to three days before you remove them.

  • Use a shovel or a fork to place ashes and coals in a can of metal. Then soak the ashes in water and cover the can with a metal lid.

  • Keep the metal can at least 10 feet from your home and away from combustible substances.

  • You should not place any other flammable materials inside the container.

  • Hot coals and ashes should not be placed in paper bags, plastic bags, cardboard boxes or plastic garbage cans.

  • To stir outdoor campfires or fire pits, always use water and a shovel.

Mason stated that we want to preserve our forests, our range lands, and our watersheds. Mason also said that we want to ensure the future of our watersheds.

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