BLOOMFIELD — With temperatures expected to top 100 degrees on Thursday, city officials are looking for new ways to avoid fires in the area.
Last week, Mayor Scott Eckstein and Fire Chief George Duncan stepped up restrictions on fires and burning by signing an emergency order to prohibit any activity on private or public property that could cause a fire to ignite.
The order restricts all burning of any type for the forseeable future until the mayor and fire chief declare it safe. The discontinuance order cites an "extreme fire danger" existing within the city as a rationale for the action.
"It's been extremely dry, so like other years, we felt it was in the best interest of safety for the city to impose the order," Fire Chief George Duncan said. "We've had four significant fires in the last seven weeks, all started in brush or vegetation that spread flames to nearby building structures."
On May 4, two homes adjacent to each other went up in flames from a nearby grass fire, most likely caused by a lit cigarette. One of the homes was destroyed.
Later that month, on May 25, the fire department was called to scene of a burning home caused by an individual burning the remains of a tree stump nearby. On June 10, sparks from a chainsaw spread flames from weeds and brush to a nearby home.
Although that home was saved, all these fires affected private homes and all were caused by activity now prohibited by the emergency order.
"We urge people to clear out vegetation and maintain fire-safe areas," Duncan said. "If people have concerns or questions, they can give us a call. We'll come out and inspect a business or residence all in the spirit of protecting against danger or damage from a fire."
Included in the ban are any fire or burning activity on public and private property, including sales and use of fireworks, the use of fire rings, outdoor fireplaces and charcoal or wood-fueled barbeque grills and pits (propane fuel is acceptable, if attended) or lighting candles or luminaria near buildings.
Also restricted on public property are any uses of open flame or smoking or dicarding cigarette butts from any vehicle.
The order also demands that "any individual or business conducting any welding and/or cutting operation outside a building on any public or private property shall have adequate fire extinguishers, water hoses or other fire suppression appliances readily available."
Any welding or brush-cutting activity will also have to be approved with a fire department inspection and monitored with a fire watch during and for 30 minutes after the activity ends.
If conditions do not improve and the region fails to see any significant rainfall, residents hoping to for a festive Fourth of July holiday may be celebrating sparkler-free.
"It's one of those issues we just have to deal with living in the Four Corners," Duncan said. "We are hoping for rain, as usual. Let's hope we see some. That would make all of us happy."
James Fenton covers Aztec and Bloomfield for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4631 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @fentondt on Twitter.