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Pinos Altos wildfire-prevention meeting seeks public input

By Glenn Griffin for The Grant County Beat, www.grantcountybeat.com

“Fire doesn’t observe boundaries, it goes where the fuel is, and that is Pinos Altos and that is why we are here,” explained Nick Smokaovich, silvaculturalist with the New Mexico State Forestry at the first fire prevention meeting held in Pinos Altos in more than four years. At first there were more Bureau of Land Management Fuels specialists and Forest Service officials at the P.A. Volunteer Fire Station than locals, but one by one P.A. residents came in until 21 filled the meeting.  “While there is no fire-prevention treatment now," said BLM’s Fuels Specialist Ricky Cox, “the BLM has a little funding to treat both public and private lands within a mile of BLM land in P.A.”

The proposed treatment area is south and west of the town, adjacent to prior thins done nearly a decade ago on public lands, in a mix of overcrowded ponderosa pine, oak and juniper. Residents asked for fire-prevention assessments of their homes from State Forestry, with Evelyn Yates asking for an assessment, too, saying, “I want to die in my home from age, but not from a forest fire.” Already State Forestry has recommended a plan to fire adapt Yates’ five acres on Golden Street in P.A.

Treatment, following a prescription for restoring the land, would not just be ladder-limbing, but actual tree removal and full treatment of the slash. Up to half the small and spindly pines would be removed, separating crowns, allowing for grass to grow.  With good ten to thirty foot gaps between the trees, or clumps of trees, the biggest, and healthiest trees will be left, with mistletoe-infected trees removed and the remaining pines kept safer from mistletoe by the spacing. The timing of the work would most likely be from September until March to keep the bark beetles at a minimum.

For a fire-adapted assessment, give Tonya Vowles, Special Projects Forester with the New Mexico State Forestry, in Silver City, a call at 388-2210. To implement a fire-adapting thinning on your property give Glenn Griffin a call at 388-4130. Gila Tree Thinners has protected 258 local homes directly from fire, treating 3,150 acres over the past 13 years. Griffin is also a member of Grant County’s Eco-Watershed Committee that is seeking to protect citizens and property at high risk from wildfires and related floods.

There is an upcoming Symposium of Preparedness at the WNMU Bessie-Forward Global Resource Center on March 7-8 where much more on fire-adapting our backyards will be discussed. www.scneighborsalliance.com

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