ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – As the winds keep whipping and this early fire season drags on, agencies are stepping up efforts to keep the Bosque from going up in flames around Albuquerque. If you’ve been around the Bosque in the past week, you may have noticed more airboats hitting the Rio Grande.

That’s because the Bernalillo County Fire Department got orders from the state to start conducting severity patrols in the area Sunday. By Monday, they were already out in the water. “So this whole week, the water rescue task force along with different brush trucks in each region — North Valley, South Valley, East mountains—we’re doing patrols all day long and all night long because of the severe drought conditions,” says Joe Lane, water rescue coordinator and airboat pilot for the Bernalillo County Fire Department.

These patrols include firefighters, deputies, and police officers from the city and county—extra eyes and ears stretched along the Bosque ready to jump in at a moment’s notice in case a fire sparks. “Around the clock. We’re taking a proactive stance on this for Bernalillo County. Some of the incidents that we had last month in Valencia County and what’s going on up in the north part of the state, we want to limit that here within the metro,” Lane says.

They’ve already found trouble on their rounds: from campfires to homeless camps. “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,” Lane says. These patrols are all in an effort to keep the woods open and safe for people like Jay Alderete, who love to frequent them.

“That’s good that they’re doing that because I don’t think they have enough help out here. That’s why all these fires are coming out,” Alderete says. The patrols will also hopefully help avoid closing the area altogether due to the heightened fire danger — at least for now: “But if we start seeing more and more fires, there’s potential to close the Bosque for the summer,” Lane says.

These extra patrols will be out through the week. After that, they’ll continue to evaluate the situation to see if they’re still needed.

Lane says the Bernalillo County Fire Department (BCFD) will be partnering with other agencies and organizations to hold the 2nd Annual Water Safety for the Public event to educate the public about enjoying the Rio Grande safely. It will be held in three locations: Siphon Beach, Alameda Open Space, and Tingley Beach from 9:00am to 1:00pm. BCFD partnered with Walmart, and have a number of donated youth life jackets to give out at the Alameda Open Space location while supplies last. For more information, visit their webpage here.