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New Mexico issued fire restrictions on May 13

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FARMINGTON — San Juan County and area municipalities are bracing for a summer fire season as firefighters continue to respond to medical calls for patients with the coronavirus.

The City of Farmington and San Juan County issued fire restrictions this week following an announcement from the New Mexico State Forestry Division on May 13.

The State Forestry Division restrictions prohibit open fires, smoking, campfires and fireworks on all non-tribal, non-federal and non-municipal lands unless certain conditions are met, according to a State Forestry Division press release.

This burn ban also applies to all private land across New Mexico.

“While the Forestry Division and its local, state, federal, and tribal partners across the state have COVID-19 protocols in place, an outbreak of the virus among firefighters could have a major impact on resources," State Forester Laura McCarthy said in a press release.

San Juan County fire and Farmington fire will not issue burn permits until further notice, as those permits will be issued through the state.

Open burning in Farmington is prohibited, including campfires and fire pits at Lake Farmington. Cooking with kerosene, charcoal and propane is permitted in Farmington.

The United States Drought Monitor for New Mexico shows most of San Juan County is listed in severe drought, according to data released on May 14.

San Juan County Fire Chief John Mohler told The Daily Times he predicts the county is moving to the next level of drought, borderline extreme, and stated volunteer firefighters are quite busy working with paramedics on COVID-19 cases.

The monitor uses a scale of no drought through D5, with severe drought listed as D2 and borderline extreme drought as D3.

Mohler said the brush fire on May 12 in the area of Nenahnezad helped push the county to agree with the state's fire restrictions.

The fire burned quickly, and rain that had fallen on May 10 and 11 didn't help deter the fire's spread.

"It proves we are closer to the severe drought than we previously thought," Mohler said.

Bureau of Indian Affairs Wildland Fire Management Navajo Region did not provide an update on the fire as of May 14. The agency took over the fire from county, Farmington and Navajo firefighters.

Farmington fire responded to 817 emergency medical/rescue calls in March, out of 1,431 total calls, according to city data.

Farmington Fire Chief Dave Burke told The Daily Times the city has been managing the COVID-19 concerns and it has not had a significant impact for fire service to the community.

The department is taking all appropriate Centers for Disease Control and Prevention directions to make sure the pandemic's impact is minimal to the community.

Burke said the fire restrictions issued by the state, county and Farmington are all geared toward lessening the strain on local fire services.

He did have significant fire concerns for the summer as recent rains didn't have any impact on local vegetation, which could help fuel a brush fire.

Anyone with questions can call the Farmington Fire Department administration at 505-599-1430. 

Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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