Drought poses risk of fire spread


El Paso, TX (KTSM) — It’s no secret that the Borderland is under extreme and exceptional drought conditions, but with dry weather and heat, conditions are ideal for fire spread.

“It just takes off quick … faster than you can run — let’s put it that way,” said West Valley Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief Boyd Smith about fires that can start small, but with the right conditions increase.

“We had good water resources — at least better than they had been in 2019 — but then along came last year. 2020, it was not a good year,” mentioned Meteorologist Jason Laney with the National Weather Service.

Emphasis on “not a good year,” since July 2020 to April 2021, the Borderland has only seen nearly 2.5 inches of rain.

“We’re hopeful that we’re going to get some rainfall to help put a dent in this deficit once we get into this summer monsoon season, but right now the drought continues and it continues to affect us in many ways,” explained Laney.

During this time we should be rounding up at 8 inches — but due to La Nina feeding into the drought — crops have suffered, air quality has dropped, Elephant Butte is only at eight percent capacity and we have hot zones.

“A gentleman last week was doing some outdoor cooking in a small grill, a wind gust came and knocked it over and it set some brush on fire. Unfortunately, he had a lot of brush and debris,” mentioned Smith.

Brush and debris that has seen days on end of dry air, making it the perfect fuel for fire conditions, which is why he is trying to spread some tips.

“Make sure that you clean up around your house. Be careful with firewood — a lot of people have that up against their house and that’s asking for trouble,” explained Smith.

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