February 19, 2014, Silver City, NM- With warm and dry weather trending, the Gila National Forest is experiencing an increase in wildfire ignitions. The SU Canyon Fire near Reserve, New Mexico was reported on February 13, burning a slash disposal site and 7 acres of grasslands. Fire behavior was light and firepersonnel quickly contained the fire later that afternoon. The McComas Peak Fire was reported the afternoon of February 15and grew to a quarter acre in size, burning in piñon, juniper, and grass. The fire was declared out early the following morning. Both fires were human-caused and are currently under investigation.
Several other fires on private lands have been reported indicating the need for forest users, as well as area residents to raise their awareness of the potentially volatile fire situation this spring. The warm weather combined with high grasses and careless behavior has Gabe Holguin, Fire Staff for the Gila National Forest, concerned about the potential for a devastating fire event, particularly in areas where homes are surrounded by drought-stressed vegetation. "There is absolutely no room for carelessness with fire,” he states. "We have waist-high grasses in most places as a result of the strong monsoon last summer, and low moisture in the trees and brush. We need people to be extremely cautious with any form of fire."
Taking precautions with fire means leaving campfires only when completely cold, cold enough to put your hand in the ashes.Taking care not to drive on cured grass, disposing of stove and grill ash by soaking in water, and welding only in an area devoid of all flammable material is critical in keeping accidental fires from occurring. Do not attempt any use of fire on windy days, as fires will progress quickly and become extremely dangerous for fire personnel, forest visitors, and area residents. "We are in fire season right now," reiterates Kelly Russell, Forest Supervisor for the Gila National Forest. "We experienced a very tragic fire season last year. We cannot afford more lives lost. We need everyone to do their part in preventing fires."
Information on fire preparedness can be found at www.Firewise.org and www.wildlandfireRSG.org. Additionally, local fire personnel are participating in the Silver City/Grant County Symposium on Preparedness on March 7 and 8, 2014, and encourages the public to attend. Please see www.scneighborsalliance.com for details. For additional information, please contact the Gila National Forest at 575-388-8201.