Summertime in the southwest means blue skies, warm weather, and, unfortunately, drought conditions. Fires already are burning across the Four Corners, so how best do we balance having fun in the sun, with taking precautions and being safe with fires? By Hannah Robertson. This story is sponsored by TBK Bank and Pop’s Truck and RV Center You can visit San Juan County Fire & Rescue, Cortez Fire & Rescue, La Plata County Search & Rescue, and Durango Fire & Rescue for updates
The southwest is known for its sunny, blue skies and warm, summer weather. More recently, summertime has become synonymous with smokey, hazy skies and fire restrictions. This summer will be no different, with fire restrictions set for most of New Mexico and Colorado, and wildfires already scorching forests. You're watching the Local News Network, brought to you by TBK bank and Pop's Truck and RV Center. I'm Wendy Graham Settle.
In order to really talk about where we're at today, fire danger wise, we really need to look at the past year, year and a half. So, here in the southwest, we've been in a dry cycle. So we're in an extended drought period. And when I say an extended drought period, I'm really talking about, you know, 18 to 24 months where the southwest, and that includes kind of southern Colorado in that, but we've been in a drought, and it's a really prolonged drought, just no moisture.
The US drought monitor, which tracks drought conditions across the United States, lists most of New Mexico in extreme drought and some areas of exceptional drought. Southern Colorado, also, is experiencing extreme drought with most of the rest of the state at a lower level of severe drought. Since drought isn't something that happens overnight, the drought in the southwest has been building over the last couple of years. And with the snow pack in the San Juans melting off quickly, and water flows into local reservoirs remaining low, the summer is going to be a long, dry one.
We've been in, you know, an extended drought period. Everything's dry, you know? So the live fuels are extremely drought stressed, so, you know, trees that are normally green, that you would see green, you can kind of see that, you know, that they've got kind of a darker appearance and that's because they're drought stressed. The fuels that are on the ground right now that are not living, the dead fuels, they are bone dry. So the fuels right now, that are on the landscape and our wildlands are extremely receptive to wildland fire.
The Perins Peak fire, in Durango, burned in such extremely dry conditions, growing from a spark to a hundred acres overnight. The Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon fires by Santa Fe, have burned through more than 315,000 acres as of May 31st. Burning through dry brush and trees, both of these fires were started by a spark, a spark that Chief Vega is intent on preventing in San Juan County.
A philosophy, one less spark, one less wildfire. So there's a lot of things that people can do just in their everyday lives to prevent accidental sources of ignition. If you are pulling a trailer, make sure your chains aren't dragging down the highway. If you are smoking, you know, make sure that that cigarette butt ends up in a cigarette can or some type of device where, you know, that cigarette's not going to start a fire, or it's completely crushed. Anytime you're operating equipment, you need to be careful with sparks and things of that nature.
The San Juan National Forest enacted Stage One fire restrictions before Memorial Day weekend. And San Juan County has a mix of stage one and two fire restrictions across federal and private land. While it can be sometimes confusing determining which restrictions are active where, you can always check an area's fire restriction status online. In the meantime, if a fire is burning close to you, Chief Vega suggests that all residents be ready to go.
So "Ready, Set, Go" is a national initiative as it relates to evacuations. So we have adopted a three set policy, "Ready, Set, Go." So "Ready" is always that first level of preparedness. If you reside within the southwest right now, whether that be here in San Juan County, or up in the La Plata County, right now, if you have a residence that's up through the wild end urban interface, I will tell you right now, there is a potential for wildland fire to affect your home. Should we have a fire right now, what are we going to take from our house? And when I say, "what are we going to take from our house," we always look at pets, prescriptions, papers things that we're not going to be able to recoup if we do get a fire. The "Set" is all right, now we do have a fire, the agencies have called for an evacuation, so we're, or a pre-evac, we're putting stuff in our car. We've got all the pets, papers, prescriptions, things of that nature. We are ready to go, we're just waiting for the official oard to go, and then the "Go" part of that is now an evacuation has been ordered.
To stay up to date on fire restrictions, active fires in the area, or to learn more about fire prevention, check local fire and rescue Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. For San Juan County, search San Juan County fire and rescue. For La Plata County, search La Plata search and rescue, or Durango fire and rescue. For Montezuma County, search Cortez Fire Protection District. Thank you for watching this edition of the Local News Network. I'm Wendy Graham Settle.