Wildfire Danger Increasing, Vigilance Needed

Contact(s): Ellen Brown 575-388-8262

Silver City, NM; January 12, 2012--Smoke from a wildfire rising into the air makes us immediately remember March 7, 2011, when the Quail Ridge Fire blazed through our community, burning 13 homes and changing the lives of many people. The Whippy/Armijo Fire filled the sky with smoke this weekend, driven by 15 mile per hour wind speeds and growing to 1,316 acres in less than 6 hours. With the La Niña influenced trend for abnormally warm and dry conditions through the winter and spring, it is time to increase our fire danger awareness and prepare for wildfire season. While intermittent rain and snow storms do help, it doesn’t take long in the southwest sun and wind to dry out again. The following are steps everyone can take to prevent a wildfire from starting:


  • Make sure ashes from fireplaces and wood stoves are disposed of properly. Place ashes in a metal bucket away from dry vegetation and wet them down thoroughly.  Ashes hold heat for a prolonged amount of time, so be certain they are cold to the touch.
  • Recycle your yard waste through mulching and composting. Check with your local fire department before lighting any debris pile. They can advise you on safety precautions and requirements. Never burn when it is windy or predicted to be windy.
  • Keep your cigarette butts in the car. Carelessly tossed cigarette butts easily find dry grasses on the roadside and can ignite quickly. 
  • Any welding you do should be in an open area, cleared of any flammable material. Avoid welding during windy conditions, and have a water source available to keep the surrounding area cool.
  • Inspect spark arrestors on chimneys and stove pipes on a regular basis, keeping them clean and clear of build up.
  • Whether you are in the forest or in your backyard, never leave a fire unattended, even for a moment.







From March to June, 2011, 3.2 million acres burned in wildfires across New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas. With the ongoing severe drought expected to expand through the spring, residents are strongly encouraged to prepare for the possibility of a fast-moving wildfire. Fire brands, or embers resulting from wildfires, are the leading cause of structure loss. Taking steps to decrease the flammability of your home and property can make a difference. There are many actions you can take to protect your property from wildfire, but here are the fundamentals:


  • Maintain a “30 foot buffer zone” around your home and outbuildings, starting from structure walls  and working outward.  Defensible space  not only helps protect your home in the critical minutes it takes a fire to pass, but it also gives firefighters an area to work in if there is the opportunity to protect your home from burning. 
  • Move firewood stacks away from your home as fire brands can quickly ignite them.
  • Prune and limb trees close to your home approximately 6-8 feet above the ground.  This decreases the chance of fire climbing into low branches.
  • Inspect gutters, roof valleys, and chimney boxes often for any build-up of pine needles and leaves. Also inspect the condition of your roofing material, identifying exposed sub-roofing or any other damage in which fire brands can land in.
  • Make sure both your home and driveway are clearly marked with your address and can easily been seen at night. Your driveway should be wide enough for a large fire truck to enter the property and be able to turn around. Mark all bridges and culverts clearly to ensure the safety of heavy equipment.
  • You and your family should have a plan for evacuation and discuss it with one another.  Keep important documents, such as insurance policies, in a portable filing box and in a location that can be quickly accessed. Have emergency refills of all prescriptions available, including medications for your pets.  


It is more important than ever for each of us to do our part in protecting communities and natural resources from unintended fires. Understand that any fire you create could become a wildfire. With everyone’s help, we can decrease the losses from wildfire.


For further information on steps homeowners can take to reduce their risk, please visit www.FireWise.org and www.nmfireinfo.com or contact Ellen Brown at 575-388-8262 or ellenbrown@fs.fed.us