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Juan Rodriguez of Texas A & M Forest Service Talks about fire mitigation and prevention.

CRISS: This is Southwest Spotlight on the KENW Public Radio Network. With me now is Juan Rodriguez. And Juan is with Mitigation and Prevention at Texas A & M’s Forest Service. And Juan, you’re concerned about an upcoming increase in wildfire potential. Can you tell me why that is?

RODRIGUEZ: Yes, Sir. Well, what we're seeing, especially today, is an increase in wildfire potential. Because, with critically dry fuels above average temperature and strong winds, the conditions are lining up to have the potential to become a southern plains wildfire outbreak day.

CRISS: OK, we had really good rains this summer. Is that what caused the fuel source to be so plentiful?

RODRIGUEZ: Um, so yeah, that has a lot to do with what we’re seeing right now. Earlier in the year, spring and summer. We had a really good growing season. A lot of rain, a lot of monsoons. That all had- an effect on the weather right now. The winter is when we're starting to get these freezing temperatures. It's starting to kill all that vegetation and make it dry. And so now we have a lot of fuel that’s really dry right now.

CRISS: OK, and as far as the weather predictions into the future look. Is it going to stay dry for a while?

RODRIGUEZ: Yes Sir, so far from what we're seeing. This is looking like to be a dry winter. Here- here right now in the High Plains we are on. I think we're going over 60 days now without any significant rainfall. And it's starting to look like we're probably in this for a while.

CRISS: OK, can you tell me what we can do to help keep wildfires from getting started? Can you give me a few ideas?

RODRIGUEZ: Yes, Sir, so here in the High Plains, we see a lot of human-caused wildfires. And typically, what we see is roadside starts, such as tire blowouts on the highway or chains dragging a lot of times. We see a lot of wildfires caused by a spark or heat-generating activities such as welding or grinding. And so what we can do to help prevent these wildfires is to really, really take care and maintain your equipment and your vehicles. Properly inspect and make sure you have the proper amount of air and nothing hanging off of your vehicles or trailers when you're going down the road. And then other-. We highly advise- especially on days like today. Where winds are projected to beat gusts of 70 in some parts. It is to- to not partake in any activities such as welding or grinding. If you do, please have an abundance of water and post the lookout so that way you don’t start any fires.

CRISS: Ah, just very quickly, one thing we have in abundance out here in Eastern New Mexico. And I’m pretty sure Texas has the same. Are tumbleweeds? People should get those away from their buildings and out into the wind and let them go on wherever it was they were going in the first place, shouldn't they?

RODRIGUEZ: Oh yes, Sir. Indeed. And I and I think that’s a good segway into having a defensible space around your home. Because a lot that’s something that a lot of folks overlook, especially in times like these where we have the potential for these wildfires. A lot of things that people need to do is have preparation. And- and make it a defensible space around their home and not have any dried-up vegetation around that can put their houses at risk.

CRISS: OK, so what you’ll be doing is helping people keep from starting the fires- or mitigation means you’re gonna help them take care of damage afterwards. Is that correct?

RODRIGUEZ: Yes, Sir. So, with my job, I'm looking- trying to spread the word to communities. Whether it's their schools or radio stations or the TV media, and trying to- trying to educate people- on wildfires and our agency as well. And we also do a lot of preventative measures such as project work in certain communities that we find work at. And we’ll go and make shaded fuel breaks and do chainsaw and chipping projects to reduce fuel loading and then prescribed burns or making firebreaks for landowners with bulldozers.

CRISS: OK, OK, well, thank you very much. Juan, we appreciate what you're doing, and I hope everybody gets the word. Thank you for being on the show.

RODRIGUEZ: Thank you for having me Sir, I really do appreciate it.

CRISS: And thank you for listening. This is Don Criss, and this has been Southwest Spotlight.