A red flag warning was issued Feb. 8 by the National Weather Service because of temperatures and windy conditions across the state. Meanwhile, its forecast for the next few months is warmer and drier than average.

The Sandia and Mountainair Ranger stations are now in “Moderate” fire conditions.

“A Red Flag warning in the winter time is not too common,” said Kerry Jones, meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

Jones said the odds are tilted toward warmer than average and drier than average conditions for March through May, with April and May expected to be the windiest months of the year for the local area.

He said the current outlook for significant wildland fire is mostly focused across the eastern part of the state through the end of March.

By April or May that fire danger area will start to expand westward to include lower elevations of the central part of the state. He said, “May and June are generally the most critical months for fire weather concerns but dry, windy days between now and early spring will be of concern.”

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“We are still hopeful that we’ll have some late precipitation, especially snow; there’s a pretty big front predicted to come in this weekend, for example,” said Anthony Martinez, Mountainair District Fire Management Officer. He said fire danger is moderate right now, but could change.

“The seasonal outlook is calling for below average precipitation during the next couple of months,” Martinez said, adding, “We are actively monitoring fire conditions. We will consider going into fire restrictions as the fire danger elevates.”

Martinez said that he has seen Red Flag Warnings occur this early in the season but they are not as common in the winter as they are in spring.

He said the most important thing the public can do is create defensible space around homes and other structures near their homes by clearing vegetation.

Every year the public is encouraged to participate in fire preparedness with activities, including clearing leaves and other debris from gutters, eaves, porches and decks; removing dead vegetation and other items from under decks or porches, and within 10 feet of the house; screening or boxing in areas below patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent debris and combustible materials from accumulating; and removing all flammable materials from within 30 feet of the foundation of houses and outbuildings, including garages and sheds.

For more information on preparing for fire season, visit firewise.org, fs.usda.gov, facnm.org, emnrd.state.nm.us, nfpa.org and firesafemarin.org.

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