Local agencies are preparing for their wildfire response amid one of the driest seasons in years.
“We’ve had dry winters since we’ve been here but this is absolutely the driest we’ve ever seen it,” said Kathlena Contreras outside her Tijeras business.
“There’s an elevated risk for some sort of fire,” Forest Service District Fire Management Officer Brent Davidson said.
That’s why the Sandia Ranger District in the East Mountains has its engines patrolling and staff taking soil samples to see just how dry it is, looking for opportunities for prescribed burns.
“To get the fuels around our communities and in the forest treated as much as we can,” Davidson said.
As for the Forest Service’s southwest region in New Mexico and Arizona, Brent said it’s the driest it’s been since 2011and that means their critical training needs to happen sooner.
“Regionally, they are bringing on the type one, the hot shot crews and some of the helicopters early — approximately a month early to help out with anything that could happen,” he said.
In the city of Albuquerque, people have already seen the effects of a dry winter.
“We’ve had a couple of Bosque fires already — small in nature but higher fire activity than anticipated,” AFD Lieutenant Brian Fox said.
On Thursday, the Albuquerque Fire Department practiced its fire shelter deployment and preparations for wildfire season with its PAC test in which they wear 45-pound vests and walk three miles in less than 45 minutes and 45 seconds. All 600 members of AFD, including the new fire chief, have to take the test annually.
“It’s to simulate hiking conditions with hardworking conditions over a long period of time, which we do with wildland firefighting.”
Fox said AFD could start its patrols of the Bosque, foothills and west mesa earlier than Memorial Day weekend if the area doesn’t get more moisture soon.
AFD and the Forest Service are already holding wildfire preparedness meetings to educate people on how to protect their properties.
Still, one woman is asking for a higher power to intervene: Pray for rain! Do rain dances!” Contreras said.