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New Mexico ag urged to prepare for wildfires


New Mexico is in the middle of the typical peak wildfire season, and national forecasters say risk could increase throughout the summer. So the state agriculture department is reminding residents, especially farmers and ranchers, to stay vigilant. 

The highest wildfire risk in New Mexico is typically between early May and late June, according to the agriculture department, though prolonged drought and increasing temperatures mean fire poses a risk throughout the year. 

Recent forecasts from the National Interagency Fire Center show the central mountain chain in New Mexico as the possible wildfire epicenter of the Southwest this July. 

Today, forecasters with the National Weather Service issued a Red Flag warning across more than half of the state, warning of “critical fire weather” conditions this afternoon until at least 8 p.m. High winds from the northeast, including gusts near 50 mph, as well as single-digit humidity combine to create high fire risk across western New Mexico and the central mountain chain. 

As part of National Wildfire Awareness Month, the agriculture department is encouraging farmers and ranchers – and everyone else – to learn about creating defensible space on their properties in the event of a wildfire. 

New Mexico State University’s College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences has a series of instructional videos for mitigating damage to properties and livelihoods from fire. One video is geared specifically for farmers and ranchers. The materials are online at aces-defensiblezone.nmsu.edu.

Farms operate on more than 39 million acres of land in New Mexico, according to the latest agricultural Census figures, and the state has nearly 21,000 farms and ranches. 

So far this year, there have been very few significant wildfires on state, federal or private land in New Mexico, but dry and windy conditions have increased the risk, state agriculture secretary Jeff Witte said in a news release.

“With much of this year’s wildfire season still ahead of us, I encourage farmers and ranchers, and all New Mexicans, to learn about creating ‘defensible space’ and following other fire safety protocols that can protect land, livestock and homes,” he said.

National Wildfire Awareness Month, fires