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Burn restrictions remain in San Juan County, N.M.

Fire agencies cite drought conditions
A public information officer walks on a ridge top as the Wallow Fire burns behind her outside of Eagar, Ariz., in 2011.

FARMINGTON – The U.S. Bureau of Land Management will lift fire restrictions Tuesday morning in New Mexico, but the San Juan County and Farmington fire departments announced Monday they would not issue burn permits.

The BLM and New Mexico State Forestry announced fire restrictions would end at 8 a.m. Tuesday. The agency cited increased moisture and higher humidity statewide.

Campfires will be allowed, but the BLM encouraged caution because not all portions of the state have received equal amounts of rainfall. Caution is advised for operating a vehicle or equipment in dry grass or brush areas, and the BLM recommends a shovel, fire extinguisher and extra water for trips outdoors.

State Forester Laura McCarthy warned Friday that a wildfire could still start, especially in northern and eastern New Mexico, where drought conditions still exist.

On Monday afternoon, the San Juan County Fire Department and Farmington Fire Department announced they would still not issue burn permits for Farmington, Kirtland and San Juan County. Both agencies stopped issuing burn permits in March, following state and federal guidelines.

In a joint news release, the two agencies acknowledged some areas had received scattered rain but “drought conditions are still severe in the county.”

Officials from the Farmington and San Juan County fire departments will meet later this week to re-evaluate the conditions.

A study released last week by the Western Resource Advocates found much of the Interior West, including the Four Corners, was experiencing drought despite a winter with heavy snow. In particular, southern Colorado and northern New Mexico were experiencing extreme drought, while the rest of the Four Corners faces severe drought conditions, according to the outdoor advocacy group.

The study cited higher-than-average temperatures and below-average rainfall throughout the West, which led to earlier snow runoff, dry soil and low flow in many of the rivers. The Dolores River has been at 50% below average, according to Western Resource Advocates.

This time last year, most of the West was out of a short-term drought because of a heavy snowpack across the region.

lweber@durangoherald.com



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