New Mexico Crews To Build Fuel Breaks On State Trust Land

The New Mexico Land Office is reducing wildfire fuel on state trust land in six counties, while firefighters mop up what's left of a fire that has been smoldered in southern New Mexico for more than a month.

Crews assigned to the 64,488-acre Peppin Fire in the Capitan Mountains are watching for remaining hot spots, putting in water bars to prevent erosion and seeding along fire lines dug by bulldozers.

The lightning-sparked blaze, which destroyed a dozen cabins early on, is nearly contained. It has cost $7.15 million to fight so far.

In an effort to reduce the threat of wildfires like the Peppin, the Land Office is constructing fuel breaks in Union, Colfax, Lincoln, Otero, Catron and Grant counties.

``There is significant fire danger in New Mexico because of long term fire exclusion and the drought that we're having,'' Land Commissioner Patrick Lyons said Monday, ``so these projects are particularly import to protect homes and property from catastrophic fire.''

The state agency is using two methods, depending on the land management goal. One clears an entire area to keep fuel from acting as a ladder to reach the tree tops or to keep tree crowns from growing to dense. The other targets only certain trees.

Lyons said the projects will protect communities from wildfire and improve the overall environmental health.

The state Land Office completed a fuel break project on Capulin Volcano National Monument last week and is working on projects near Angel Fire, Ruidoso, Cloudcroft and Silver City.

In central New Mexico, firefighters on Monday night fully contained the 358-acre Bernardo Fire that raced through the wooded area along the Rio Grande in Socorro County last Friday. It burned a house and mobile home, but officials said no one lived in either home.

Authorities believe the fire was human-caused, but they haven't determined what sparked the blaze.

The 8,595-acre Sedgwick Fire in the Zuni Mountains near Grants was declared 100 percent contained Sunday afternoon. The human-caused fire started June 12.