New Mexico counties prepare for high fire dangers

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – KOB 4 brings you team coverage of the fire danger across all of New Mexico Wednesday. 

It’s a product of the warm, windy and dry conditions Chief Meteorologist Eddie Garcia has been talking about this week.

The bosque near Tingley was one of many places local fire officials are keeping a close eye on. The Bernalillo County Fire Department says it doesn’t take a lot to spark a serious fire.

“We, you know, we have these grasses that are really dried out, we have these dried out leafs down here,” said BCFD Spokesperson Lt. Robert Arguelles. 

Arguelles showed KOB 4 just how dangerous conditions are in the Alameda open space.

“That fire is going to come in here, it’s going to ignite this stuff really, really easily. This fuel is going to burn very fast, and it’s gonna burn very hot,” said Arguelles. 

From there, the fire will climb.

“It’ll start to burn its way all the way up and preheat and burn up into the canopies of these trees. So as you can see behind me, some of these cottonwoods, even though they’re starting to bud out are still very dry,” Arguelles said. “Of course, once it’s up that high, the wind can catch little bits and pieces of that, push it down for anywhere from just a couple 100 feet to miles in some cases.”

Repeating the dangerous cycle in the span of minutes.

Even with higher water levels, Arguelles urges folks not to let their guard down until we get rain.

In fact, a fire sparked near the Albuquerque Sunport while we were talking to the lt.

“So it was called in this area, so it could be any of the dry fuels that are around in this area, south of the base area,” said Arguelles.

It turns out a 10×10 pile of wood chips went up in flames. Luckily a nearby fire station got a handle on it quickly.

But Arguelles said if that call had come from the bosque, that might not have been the case.

“The potential for fire danger is very real in the Bosque right now,” said Arguelles.  “It is very high. And maybe not even just here, I’m sure in other areas of the state, it’s also very high.”

The areas of New Mexico where conditions are even more dry are the ones still recovering from last year’s devastating wildfire season.

“We’ve actually already had an earlier start to our wildfire season out here, it’s been smaller fires,” said City of Las Vegas Fire Chief Steven Spann. “But we’ve had good responses and quick knockdowns in the fires and control of them.”

“One as recently as Monday, a 30-acre fire, simply from someone welding out in the field,” said San Miguel County Fire Chief Andrew Duran. 

San Miguel County and Las Vegas fire officials say they’re working a lot closer to prevent another tragedy like the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire.

“it’s still going to be a rough season,” said Duran. 

The same prep was happening in Ruidoso where fires destroyed more than just homes.

“We hate the devastation that happened and the two lives that were lost last year in the McBride fire, but you know, that’s why we’re committed to being diligent and being at the ready whenever we do have red flag days like this,” said Kerry Gladden, a Village of Ruiodoso spokesperson.  “We did have a structure fire about a week and a half ago, that that was, you know, well contained within just a few minutes.”

The eastern portion of the state is the driest right now. Crews in Clovis reported multiple grass fires this week, sparked by one of their own fire trucks that had a hydraulic failure along State Road 523.

No recent fires in Hobbs, and officials there sent out safety tips in hopes of keeping it that way. Their guidance echoed by the other agencies we interviewed.

“Ashes from your fireplace or from your barbecue grill, make sure they’re completely cold,” said Spann. 

“Looking at your trees see what needs to be trimmed back see if there’s any needles or leaves in your rain gutters,” said Duran. 

“If you see something, say something,” said Gladden. 

“If you see something, say something, you know, if you see some smoke, if you see some activity that you’re not 100% sure about,” said Arguelles. 

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