Fire warning issued for most of Friday

Freedom New Mexico

The National Weather Service has issued a red flag fire warning most of Friday for eastern New Mexico, according to a press release from Ken de los Santos, emergency management director for Curry County.

The red flag warning is in effect from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

According to the release, critical fire weather conditions are expected in the morning and will continue until the evening hours. Relative humidity is expected to be 15 percent or less, and area winds are expected to reach speeds of 20 mph with gusts as high as 35 mph.

Portales Fire Department Battalion Chief Shannon Lee said area fire crews are taking precautions.

“Normally what we do is just try to check our availability status, know exactly how many personnel we’re going to have. Another thing is, if we have people calling in for controlled burns, we try to discourage all of them that we can for the day,” Lee said.

Lee said area weather conditions are prime for wildfires to spread.

“We’ve had nearly no winter moisture at all. With the wind, our humidity level gets below any manageable level at all, we have no field moisture to help us out with the spread of the fire, and then we have the wind that’s just going to exacerbate that situation,” Lee said.

Lee said potential fire hazards are not limited to open flames. He said certain high-friction power tools can start fires that spread rapidly. He also warned people who smoke in their vehicles not to throw cigarettes out the window.

Clovis Fire Department Battalion Chief Kevin Crouch emphasized how quickly fires can spread.

“Two weeks ago we had a fire at the Ned Houk Park that burned 2,000 to 3,000 acres and one home,” Crouch said. “It took three minutes for that fire to get out of control.”

Crouch said residents should check all fire bans issued by the National Weather Service and local authorities until the area receives more moisture.