Fire danger in Arizona lessen, but El Paso is not immune
By Joe Olvera ©, 2011
El Paso’s desert conditions plus the advent of the Fourth of July present excellent opportunities for raging wildfires, not unlike the fires that have devastated almost 700-square-miles in Arizona, destroying 30 homes and presenting threats such as residents inhaling dangerous particles created by the fires. To boot, the El Paso Electric Company is warning El Pasoans to prepare to conserve energy in the event that a deadly fire known as the Wallow Fire strikes electrical lines that carry electricity to El Paso customers.
Although that portion of the fire, which lies just 15 miles from the electrical lines that feed El Paso, seems to be contained, the danger still exists which could prove devastating to this city if the fire were to advance any further. Already the fires in Arizona have crossed the border into New Mexico, forcing the closure of NASA exit 161 east and west bound. The city of Alamogordo, New Mexico, only about 80 miles from El Paso has been shut down and motorists are being encouraged to seek shelter in the City of Las Cruces, New Mexico until conditions change. The New Mexico Dept. of Transportation is warning motorists to steer clear of U.S. 70, where traffic control is down to one lane eastbound from mile post 164 to 165. Drivers are urged to slow down in the area and to proceed with caution.
Fire officials are also warning El Paso residents about the dangers of using fireworks in that fireworks are illegal inside the City of El Paso. Anyone caught with contraband within city limits, including 5,000 feet beyond the city limits, will be issued citations that can go as high as $2,000. A prolonged drought, coupled by extremely dry vegetation, creates the danger of starting brush fires. Even harmless-seeming children’s sparklers, which often reach temperatures of 1,000 degrees are potentially dangerous.
Other safety precautions that El Pasoans can take to lessen the danger of wildfires include removing dry brush, trash and other materials from yards. During Arson Awareness Week which started June 1 and ended June 8, homeowners were warned to take extra precautions to ensure safe conditions. Minor fires have been created in El Paso, fueled by strong winds, but, nothing major has occurred. Fire officials said that other precautions which El Pasoans can take to remove fire dangers include:
*Remove trash, flammable liquids, unused gas containers, and dry vegetation from yards;
*Remove abandoned vehicles;
*Secure vacant homes with additional locks, board up the windows, and other openings;
*Vacant homes can be a property risk. Owners should have all utilities disconnected;
*At vacant properties, any liquefied petroleum or propane tanks should be disconnected and removed;
*Report any suspicious activities to the El Paso Fire Department.