Otero County has now implemented a STAGE 2 Fire Ban effective Tuesday, June 19th. The lower 2/3 of the state is already under restrictions and Otero County is the last to put the fire restrictions into place.
Otero County Sheriff Shawn Mobley met with Fire Chiefs throughout the county, Otero County Emergency Manager Danny Chavez, The Otero County Board of County Commissioners, and US Forest Service last week. Based on the extreme level of drought, extreme dry conditions, and serious lack of moisture, they felt as thought the safe and responsible thing to do was to enact the restrictions. Officials say it’s been 10-years since conditions have been this dire.
Sheriff Mobley says if the moisture levels change, they’ll revisit the issue and make adjustments if necessary.
STAGE 2 Restriction Prohibits the following:
* The sale or use of fireworks.
* Outdoor smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or while in an area of at least 3 feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials
* Operating or using any internal combustion engine is not permitted on public lands without a spark-arresting device properly installed.
* Welding or operating acetylene or other similar torch with open flame unless said work is performed in an area at least 30 feet in diameter that is clear of flammable vegetation and unless the worker has ready access to fire extinguisher or water supply to suppress any fire that results from the welding operation.
There are some pretty hefty fees associated with violating the burn ban. Violators could be punished by a fine of not more than $1,000 for each separate offense, plus any surcharges and court fees.
Law Enforcement in the Valley says they will be even less lenient with violations of the Fire Ban and Fireworks violations. Anyone who causes a fire may also be charged with 4th Degree Arson.