New Mexico begins to lift fire restrictions as summer rain eases danger

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New Mexico’s state forester on Monday lifted fire restrictions that had been imposed in the spring due to extreme wildfire danger, saying summer rains were bringing relief.

Still, State Forester Laura McCarthy warned that some parts of New Mexico remain dry and that people should be cautious with any use of fire and fireworks.

“New Mexicans are living through historic climate change that is becoming our new normal,” she said in a statement.

The state restrictions prohibiting campfires, smoking and other opening burning were put in place in late April as hot, dry and windy conditions fueled multiple large fires. That included two planned burns by federal land managers that became the largest wildfire in New Mexico’s recorded history.

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Thousands of people were forced to evacuate and hundreds of homes in the Sangre de Cristo mountain range were destroyed as a result of the massive blaze. Now, surrounding communities are dealing with deadly flooding as storm runoff flows from barren mountainsides within the burn scar.

Three people died last week when they were swept away by fast-moving floodwaters northwest of the community of Las Vegas.

Residents say they are getting pounded daily by storms.

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“I’ve never seen so much water in my life up here, and there’s nothing to hold the water back. There’s nothing,” Isidro Archuleta, 58, told the Santa Fe New Mexican.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency last week granted the governor’s request to include flooding impacts in New Mexico’s disaster declaration for counties affected by wildfires.

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Forest officials said Monday that areas across the fire still were experiencing dangerous conditions, such as flooding and debris flows and that as weather allows, crews will continue repairing culverts, mending fences and doing other work to control erosion.

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