ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Investigators say it’s too early to say what caused the bosque fire off of Coors and Montaño, but given the recent history of bosque fires some are wondering: could it be a case of a homeless camp? Or, someone intentionally setting a fire?
Homeless encampments in the bosque are nothing new. News 13 crews went out in the bosque Thursday and found remnants—things like blankets and evidence of fires in underpasses. However, keeping encampments out of the bosque in times of high fire risk can be challenging.
Officials are patrolling the bosque to monitor the area and mitigate risks. News 13 went out with a severity patrol team two weeks ago manned by the Bernalillo County Fire Department. They tell us they’ve already come across encampments in their patrols.
“We’ve already found five or six burn pits in the area, we’ve busted up quite a few encampments and told them they cannot hold a residence inside the bosque area,” says Joe Lane, fire rescue coordinator.
Just last week, Christina Castorena-Noble was arrested for intentionally setting a dozen fires in the bosque — the prosecution in her case arguing she’s too dangerous to be released.
Now in the wake of yet another bosque fire this season people who enjoy the sanctuary are exasperated.
“Very disappointed just because again it’s more than likely human-caused. I know there was someone recently that just got arrested for causing a lot of arson fires throughout the bosque and I’m hoping that it’s not the same person but it could also be just someone out being irresponsible and not appreciating their environment the way that they should be,” says Matthew Turner, who was hiking in the bosque Thursday.
Mayor Tim Keller said Thursday in a news conference that they’re going to keep monitoring the situation—trying to keep as much of the bosque open to the public as possible despite the risks.
“We do like to keep the bosque open so other parts of the bosque: we want people to be in the bosque walking around those sections that are open. Because those eyes and ears help us with that quick response,” says Fire Chief Gene Gallegos of Albuquerque Fire Rescue. However, some are skeptical.
“I think as long as everybody’s being responsible, and not doing something that would cause fires out here, I think it’s still definitely safe to be out here and enjoy the nature walks but that’s a lot of responsibility for some people not bringing their vices out here,” Turner says, “I’ve seen a couple cigarette butts spread throughout also so we just all have to make sure to do our part and be responsible and make sure to take care of our environment.”
Mayor Keller says it’s up for discussion whether places like Rio Grande State Park and Rio Grande Nature Center would close as well due to the high fire danger.
AFR is looking for volunteers to keep an extra eye out for fires. The department will host a training session for fire watch volunteers June 11. Participants will learn about the warning signs and what they can do to help firefighters. Visit the city’s Parks and Recreation website to learn more.