ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Gusty canyon winds and dry grasses fueled a brush fire as it spread through several acres of an upscale neighborhood in the Sandia foothills on Tuesday afternoon.
Albuquerque Fire Department Lt. Brian Fox said 21 homes in the High Desert neighborhood were evacuated, but only three had exterior flame damage, and nobody was injured.
As of 4 p.m., Fox said the fire – which had burned seven acres – was 80 percent contained, with AFD hoping to have it fully snuffed by nightfall.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
He said firefighters with the wildland task force, the Albuquerque and Bernalillo County fire departments, among others, responded to the blaze around 1:15 p.m.
“Evacuating the public was our first priority,” Fox said.
At times, he said, the flames reached 30 feet high and threatened 10 homes, some of them surrounded on all sides.
Fox said crews were able to catch the fire during a lull in the wind gusts, some reaching 30 mph, before it was able to spread farther through the canyon.
“This is an example of how dry it is,” he said.
Aside from the winds, Fox said the high temperatures, low humidity and dry piñon, juniper and sagebrush grasses make for dangerous fire conditions.
“We’re asking the public to please be cognizant of that,” he said. “If you see something, say something early.”
Once crews had the fire contained, Lisa Darnell stood in her aunt and uncle’s yard hosing off dry grass and bushes. A swath of charred grasses extended up to the road just across the street.
“It was too close for comfort,” Darnell said.
Darnell said her relatives called after they were told to leave
“I just got in the car and headed up there,” she said. “I didn’t hesitate.”
When Darnell arrived, she said, only a few smoldering spots remained, as fire crews had already arrived and sprung into action extinguishing a majority of the blaze.
Fire crews could be seen working with shovels and hoses, finding and snuffing hot spots in the area.
Police vehicles blocked the roads into the surrounding areas as residents waited outside the perimeter to go home.