TIJERAS, N.M. (KRQE) - New Mexico has an almost $5 billion problem. A new study shows that's the value of homes in the state that are in immediate danger when wildfire rears its ugly head.
“We’ve got so many trees around here it would sure be a sad thing if they disappeared,” Curt Johnsen of Tijeras told KRQE News 13. “It would be a real shame.”
Johnsen moved to Tijeras from Texas three years ago. His house is in the heart of the forest and is one of more than 9,000 homes in Albuquerque's East Mountains considered to be vulnerable to a wildfire.
“Every time you drive up, they have the fire-danger warning,” Johnsen said. “We don’t want any fire up here.”
A new report says more than 30,000 homes in New Mexico fall into that high-risk area, and 7,700 of them are considered to be at a 'very high' risk for wildfires.
Bernalillo County Fire Marshal Chris Gober says it's the cost that comes with the view.
“They have got to realize they live in a fire environment,” Gober said. “Fire is a part of the ecosystem, and that’s how nature rebuilds itself.”
The study from a national real estate group says more than 800 homes in Albuquerque's foothills could be in the path of wildfires.
Then there’s the cost, which can be extreme, as New Mexicans saw when the Little Bear Fire wiped out more than 240 homes last year outside Ruidoso.
The study found $4.7 billion worth of homes in wildfire danger around New Mexico.
Gober says here in Bernalillo County things have been quiet, but people shouldn't get comfortable.
“We've been lucky, but it will happen here,” Gober said.
Back at Johnsen's place in Tijeras, he worries with the government shutdown, with furloughed forest workers and fewer eyes to spot danger, things could get worse.
“They don't know, but they're probably endangering a lot of people by putting them out of work right now,” Johnsen said.
Fire season usually dies down when the rainy season picks up in July and August, but Gober says in recent years they've been seeing fires in December and January.
Gober also wants to remind people whose homes are in the line of wildfire to clear the brush and dead trees around their houses and have an evacuation plan.
While Bernalillo County leaders continue to look for a way out of a risky investment plan that’s already cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, the Treasurer’s Office insists it has an exit strategy well in hand.
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