Long term forecasts show above-average monsoon season

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FARMINGTON — Recent precipitation has prompted fire restrictions and burn bans to be reduced or lifted in local municipalities, and on federally managed lands and the Navajo Nation.

The Four Corners area has seen regular rounds of moisture over the past few weeks, according to meteorologist Andrew Church of the Albuquerque office of the National Weather Service. Church said the long-term forecasts show an above-average monsoon season this year.

The city of Farmington lifted its burn ban on July 20. The ban went into effect May 8.

The burn ban followed a May 1 vote by the Farmington City Council to approve a water shortage advisory, which is first stage of the city's drought management plan. Farmington now is under a water shortage watch, the second stage of the drought management plan.

Farmington fire Chief David Burke said indicators show the fire danger has subsided to moderate from extreme, and the model used to predict moisture is positive.  

The burn permit policy is still in effect, and permits will be issued on a day-to-day basis.

The San Juan County Commission voted to lift the county's burn ban during its meeting on Tuesday. The ban was enacted during a May 22 commission meeting.

More: Burning prohibited in Farmington due to drought

The ban on outside burning included nine types of burning, including agricultural and trash burns, welding and using torches, campfires and burning of rubbish.

Burn permits are still required and will be issued depending on weather conditions.

San Juan County fire Chief Craig Daughtery said the fire danger has decreased, given the recent rains the area has seen. The moisture has had an impact on what he described as small, light fuels like grass. But he added a few more weeks of hot weather could see the fire danger increase.

San Juan County remains under exceptional drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The Bureau of Land Management Farmington District Office rescinded its fire restrictions Monday. The restrictions had been in place since June 6, according to a BLM press release.

More: BLM posts countywide burn ban: Big fines for violators

The restrictions covered Colfax, Harding, McKinley, Mora, Quay, Rio Arriba, Sandoval, San Juan, San Miguel, Santa Fe, Taos, and Union counties within the Farmington District.

The press release said visitors to agency lands will be allowed to build wood or charcoal fires and campfires, and will be permitted to smoke outside of a vehicle. The BLM reminded visitors to properly dispose of smoking materials.

Visitors are urged to use caution and monitor hot exhaust systems from parked vehicles on the chance it might ignite the grass.

The Navajo Nation downgraded its fire restrictions from stage 2 to stage 1 in a July 20 executive order signed by President Russell Begaye. The stage 2 fire restrictions were enacted on June 11.

The order allows the use of ceremonial fires that are properly permitted and propane, gas and other petroleum-fueled stoves for livestock burning.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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