COUNTY URGES PROPERTY OWNERS TO COMPLY WITH FIRE-PERMIT PROCESS

COUNTY URGES PROPERTY OWNERS TO COMPLY WITH FIRE-PERMIT PROCESS

Driving west on Amador Avenue on most any given afternoon, Doña Ana County Fire Marshal Adolf Zubia says he can see a handful of fires burning on the West Mesa.

“It’s that time of year again when people start burning off old lawns and fields, or light up piles of leaves left over from fall,” Zubia said. “But people need to understand that they need a permit for these fires, and they have to follow certain rules to avoid receiving citations for improper burning.”

Zubia said his office has a “zero-tolerance policy” for unattended fires in the county.

Permits for supervised, open burning can be obtained at no cost through the New Mexico Environment Department office at 1001 N. Solano in Las Cruces, Zubia said.

To apply for a permit, a resident must provide his or her name, telephone number and mailing address, as well as the date and site at which the burn will occur; the type and quantity of material to be burned; how the burn will be maintained and controlled; the reason for the burn; and the reasons that alternatives to burning have been ruled out.

Once the application is received, Zubia said, the Environmental Department either approves or denies a burning permit. In cases where a permit is denied, he said, a reason must be given.

For approved permits, a window of time (usually a few days) is approved for the burn, subject to the following conditions: the burn must begin no sooner than three hours after sunrise and must cease by one hour before sunset; the wind direction at the time of the burn must be such that smoke will generally be carried away from public roads and inhabited areas; all materials to be burned will be dry and reasonably free of dirt; no natural or synthetic rubber products will be burned; and no trash will be burned.

Zubia said some exceptions to these rules apply to farmers, but he recommends that all residents adhere to the guidelines to minimize the chance of a fire getting out of control and endangering lives or property.

Prior to burning, each permit applicant is required to notify county fire dispatchers at (505) 526-0975 that the burn is about to begin. At that time, conditions will be evaluated and a final go-ahead or a stop-order will be issued.

Zubia said all 16 of the county’s volunteer fire departments are authorized to check on open fires and to call in law enforcement personnel to issue citations in cases where no permit is found or where permit guidelines are not being followed. Fines for burning without a permit can reach up to $300, while non-compliance fines can go even higher, depending on the severity of the offense, he said.

Zubia said fire can get out of control quickly in New Mexico’s spring winds and he advised residents who see suspicious or potentially dangerous burns being conducted in their areas to call the nearest fire department to investigate the matter.

For more information about obtaining a burn permit or properly conducting a controlled burn, call the local office of the state Environmental Division at (505) 526-6300 or the Doña Ana County Fire Marshal’s office at (505) 647-7709.