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      New Mexico bans fireworks,open fires and outdoor smoking

      Drought-stricken New Mexico will be off-limits for fireworks, open fires and smoking until further notice.

      ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Thousands of square miles of drought-stricken New Mexico are now off-limits to fireworks, open fires and smoking until further notice.

      Land Commissioner Ray Powell made the announcement Wednesday, saying he's doing what he can to prevent catastrophic wildfires from starting on state trust land.

      He pointed to the severe drought, the potential for gusty winds and dense vegetation around the state.

      National weather forecasters say this winter has been much drier than normal for New Mexico and it's on track to be the third driest winter on record. Precipitation is only 35 percent of normal, snowpack is dismal across the mountains and reservoirs remain low.

      In addition to the prohibitions, Powell says the Land Office is working on forest thinning projects and prescribed fires are planned to reduce fuel loads.

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