March 8, Letters to the Editor

Open burning needs to be addressed

The Clovis News Journal recently published two stories regarding grass fires.
Both articles missed great opportunities to do something to curb the occurrence of grass/wild fires in our area.
Open burning of refuse has been banned by state regulations since 2004. Why? Because a major portion of today’s wastes contain plastic.
When these substances are burned at the relatively low temperatures of burn barrels (open burning), they produce dioxins — known carcinogens. Contrary to belief, these compounds don’t simply go away with the smoke. They settle back onto our crops and gardens and we consume them either directly from our gardens or through products we buy at the store, hence the health issue that was addressed by the rule banning open burning.
The New Mexico Environment Department has a Web page full of information regarding open burning, including the rule and help for fire officials at:
www.nmenv.state.nm.us/aqb/projects/openburn/openburning_index.html
Local fire officials have the authority to control open burning if they choose to be a bit proactive. Since the practice is banned by a state regulation, local officials could seek assistance from the state in enforcement efforts. Local governments can “adopt by reference” and expand/address/ implement local measures/ conditions in their ordinances if they choose to be proactive.
Also, local fire districts should probably pursue efforts to recoup their costs to fight the fires from those who start them — carelessness or stupidity do not equate to being an accident. That in itself will send a strong message to encourage proper waste disposal and use of fire.

Charles R. Ferguson
Clovis