SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed legislation Tuesday that aims to prohibit prescribed burns — wildland fires set purposefully as a means of forest management — during periods of increased fire risk.
The Democratic governor also signed a lengthy list of other measures that expand to $1 million benefits for relatives of firefighters who die in the line of duty, significantly increase pay for most statewide elected officials and improve public instructions for use of the opioid overdose-reversing drug naloxone.
The fire safety bill from Republican state Rep. Ron Griggs of Alamogordo responds in part to devastating 2022 fires in New Mexico that were allegedly lit deliberately and escaped control.
The Calf Canyon Hermits Peak Fire started April 19, 2022, and burned up more than 530 square miles (1,375 square kilometers) in northern New Mexico. It was attributed to a prescribed burn set by the U.S. Forest Service that was stoked by heavy winds, amid seasonally parched conditions.
The new law takes effect immediately, amid seasonally dry, gusty spring weather across much of the state. The restrictions apply when the National Weather Service has issued a “red flag” warning about substantial fire risks due to warm, dry and windy weather.
The pay hike bill signed by the governor will deliver the first raises in 20 years to elected officials including the secretary of state, attorney general, state lands commissioner, state treasurer, state auditor and lieutenant governor.
Those salaries will increase by as much as 70% to at least $144,000.
Lujan Grisham currently earns $110,000 a year. She won’t get a salary increase, but her successor will in 2027.