By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor
Farmers are grinning and firefighters are catching their breath after a stormy weekend that first brought dry lightning, then soaking rain.
Lightning sparked numerous grass fires Saturday night and Sunday morning. Cooler temperatures Sunday brought an end to the lightning, and with it, slow steady rainfall Sunday and Monday.
“It got kinda hectic with all the dry lightning before the rain,” Dora fire chief Paul Luscombe said.
According to the chief, his department was called for mutual aid to a fire Causey Fire Department was working about 9 p.m. Saturday. Before they could get to that one, part of his firefighters had to split off to another fire.
Luscombe said they also helped on a larger fire near N.M. 88 and Roosevelt Road 8 being fought by the Arch Fire Department and also one near the intersection of Roosevelt Roads 12 and O being attended to by the Portales Fire Department.
Luscombe said his crews stayed out until 1:20 a.m. Sunday.
Roosevelt County farmer Chester Harth, who farms near Rogers, said his farm had received more than two inches of rain by Monday afternoon.
“It’s going to be super,” Harth said. “It makes me smile all the way.”
Harth said the slow, soaking rain coupled with the snows this winter will be really good for his wheat crop. He said the soil moisture coming at this time of year is also a big plus for farmers getting ready to plow and plant.
“We’ve got the best year in 15 years as far as underground moisture,” Harth said.
Luscombe, who lives in Portales, said he had measured just under an inch of rain in the city.
Luscombe said the rain would keep the fire danger down for a little while, possibly a month if the winds and temperatures didn’t get up too much. But he says the fuel load and fire danger would persist after things dry out.
“The potential for the big wildland fire is still here and it’s increased,” Luscombe said.
He said that most of the fires were on Conservation Reserve Program grassland. He said estimates across eastern New Mexico place the fuel load (dried grass) at least 50 percent higher than last year.