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- Read the most recent updates on the fire: “Progress Made in Human-Caused Bosque Fire“
UPDATE : Officials reported last night that the fire had burned 359 acres.
Corrales and Sandia Pueblo residents expressed relief that a fast-moving bosque fire spared lives and homes, even as firefighters mopped up hotspots on both sides of the Rio Grande on Thursday.
“Corrales really dodged a bullet,” New Mexico Forestry spokesman Dan Ware said Thursday. “If the winds were blowing in the other direction, this could be a very different story.”
But state officials warned that hot, dry conditions make every community in New Mexico vulnerable this fire season.
“Fire danger is very high across the state, and it won’t take much more than a spark to cause a fire,” Ware said.
The Romero Fire started in the Corrales bosque about 3 p.m. Wednesday and charred about five acres west of the Rio Grande, but spared the densely populated residential areas.
Gusty winds from the west quickly spread the flames to the east side of the Rio Grande, where they swept through a milelong swath of bosque on Sandia Pueblo, scorching an estimated 280 acres before firefighters got the upper hand early Thursday, officials said.
“We got lucky,” said Juan Reyes, clerk of the village of Corrales. A change in wind direction could have resulted in an urban fire that destroyed homes, he said.
“There were crews out there all night long making sure that if the wind did change, that they would be on hand to stop any fires,” Reyes said.
The fire remained about 50 percent contained late Thursday.
About 80 residents of Sandia Pueblo were voluntarily evacuated, primarily because of concerns about heavy smoke that blanketed Sandia lands late Wednesday, Sandia Pueblo Gov. Malcolm Montoya said in a statement issued Thursday.
“There were no structural damages and no loss of life,” Montoya said in the statement. “For safety concerns we decided to evacuate seniors and those with respiratory concerns to safer locations.”
Evacuated Sandia residents remained housed in area hotels on Thursday, said Terri Wildermuth, a spokeswoman for the state Forestry Division.
Sandia tribal police maintained roadblocks on Highway 313 on Thursday afternoon at each end of Pueblo of Sandia lands and turned away nonresidents.
High fire danger statewide prompted the state Forestry Division to issue statewide restrictions this month banning open flames and fireworks on all state and private lands. Violators face a maximum penalty of 364 days in jail and up to $1,000 fine.
“The goal of the fire restrictions is to reduce the number of human-caused fires,” Ware said.
Fires caused by people have become more common in recent weeks, Ware said.
For example, a spark from a chainsaw caused the North Fire, which scorched about 12 acres near Manzano last week, he said.
Gov. Susana Martinez also sent a June 11 letter to city and county leaders across the state urging them to enact local fireworks bans.
“High fire danger, drought conditions, high winds, and warm weather are contributing to an active fire season,” Martinez wrote.
She cited the 43,000-acre Little Bear Fire, which destroyed 244 residential structures near Ruidoso, and the 450-square-mile Whitewater-Baldy Fire in the Gila National Wilderness as examples of the state’s extreme fire danger.
“Both are devastatingly large fires and will have long-term impacts to the forests and the surrounding community,” Martinez wrote.
The cause of the Romero Fire remained under investigation Thursday, but a human cause is suspected, Wildermuth said.
Investigators have identified two possible points of origin along a bosque trail a short distance north of Romero Road in Corrales, U.S. Forest Service spokesman Edward Baca said.
Drought, winds and the upcoming July 4 holiday are making New Mexico extremely vulnerable to fires. Here are some of the restrictions from public agencies and entities:
STATE FORESTRY DIVISION
These apply to all state, private and nonmunicipal, nonfederal and nontribal lands, including state parks and Game and Fish lands:
Fireworks are prohibited in wildland areas, except as part of a public exhibit approved by a local fire department.
No campfires; devices using kerosene, white gas, or propane as a fuel in an improved camping area are allowed if cleared of flammable vegetation for at least 30 feet or has a water source. Charcoal grills and wood and coal stoves are OK in residential yards or on the premises of a business.
Open fires are prohibited. No burning of cropland, fields, rangeland, debris burning, slash piles, prescribed burning, or weed burning. Some exceptions may be granted by the state when certain conditions are met.
No smoking, except in enclosed buildings, vehicles that have ashtrays, on paved or surface roads, developed recreation sites.
MIDDLE RIO GRANDE CONSERVANCY DISTRICT
Manages the bosque along the Rio Grande from Cochiti to the north to Bosque del Apache National Wildlfe Refuge to the south.
Banned are fires anywhere, no smoking except in closed vehicles or buildings, no fireworks, no cutting tools or gas torches. Visitors to the bosque must keep to established roads and paths.
U.S. FOREST SERVICE
Stage 1 and Stage 2 restrictions are in place in the national forests. In Cibola National Forest, which includes the Sandias, Stage 2 restrictions include no fires, whether campfire, charcoal, coal or wood; no smoking except in enclosed vehicle or building; no shooting off a firearm; no use of a chainsaw between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.; no torches with open flames; and no driving off national forest system roads except parking in areas devoid of vegetation or in Forest Service developed campgrounds. For other locations, contact the individual forest for details.
CITY OF ALBUQUERQUE
No fireworks of any kind in Open Space lands or in the Rio Grande bosque.
No aerial fireworks, such as roman candles, shells, spinners, mines, stick-type rockets. No firecrackers, bottle rockets or other ground audible devices.
BERNALILLO COUNTY (OUTSIDE CITY LIMITS)
No agricultural burning, bonfires, burning of explosives, campfires, ceremonial fires, cooking fires, hot torch burning, ignition of rocket motors, open burning, open flames, slash piles and burning weeds. Charcoal broilers, barbecue grills, wood and coal burning stoves not used at private dwellings are classified as campfires and are prohibited.
No sale and use of any fireworks that shoot sparks and pieces outside a six-foot circle and/or higher than 10 feet in the air or are louder than a cap gun. Fireworks that may pose a hazard by falling or tipping over during operation are also restricted.
Cooking or heating devices that use kerosene, white gas, or propane as fuel may be used with adequate fire protection and defensible space.
Smoking is restricted to designated areas, within structures or within vehicles with ashtrays.
No fireworks that go higher than 10 feet, travel outside a 6-foot radius and are louder than a cap gun.
In addition, igniting fireworks, starting or maintaining any fire, or smoking in the Rio Grande bosque area in Rio Rancho is prohibited.
SANDOVAL COUNTY (FOR UNINCORPORATED PARTS OF THE COUNTY)
Bans or restricts use or sale of missile-type rockets, helicopters, aerial spinners, stick type rockets and ground audible devices; ground and handheld sparking and smoke device type fireworks are OK in barren or paved areas that have access to water.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal