Dealing with the Wildfire

May 30, 2012


(LAS CRUCES) -- Health warnings are being issued and a burn ban is in effect as crews battle one of the state's largest wildfires in history. 

Mayling Martinez is on the phone making sure her family is okay.

"My daughter has asthma and I'm so sure that the haze, the humidity or whatever really would have somebody's lungs or respiratory act up," she said.

Martinez just moved to Las Cruces and is noticing all the effects coming from the massive wildfire in southwestern New Mexico's Gila National Forest.

"We're the Land of Enchantment and it would be nice to keep our forest clear from wildfires. It's so sad because we have beautiful terrain out there," she said.

State officials say the fire has grown to more than 170,000 acres. It's also the largest currently burning in the country.

"According to the predictions that we have looked at, it appears it's going to be a very, very dry summer," said Dona Ana County Fire Marshal Robert Monsivaiz.

Dona Ana County leaders have enacted an emergency ordinance to ban all open burning and restrict other uses of fire and ignition sources for at least the next 90 days. 

"Our fires may not be big because we don't have the tree levels but because we have the prairies, because we have the tall grass, it's just as dangerous so people need to try and build a defense space between their homes and that brush," he said.

Leaders with the New Mexico Department of Health and the state's environment department say wind directions from the west to east may cause smoke impacts across the state. 

"Anybody can suffer adverse affects whether its coughing, wheezing, irritation to the eyes when that matter is in the air, anybody can suffer. From adverse health affects," said Chris Minnick with the State Health Department.

To avoid such conditions, health experts say people should limit their time spent outdoors and avoid using swap coolers. Residents can also monitor the air quality in their area by line of sight or simply using the internet. 

"Unfortunately, this is a situation that we deal with in New Mexico quite a bit. In the last couple of years we've had some heavier years of drought so we are seeing more wildfires and this is the time of year we're going to see smoke in the air coming from fires into Las Cruces depending on wind conditions," he said.