The Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire is now the largest wildfire in state history. More than 2,000 firefighters are battling the blaze. Other fires are burning in New Mexico. People have had to evacuate. Homes, buildings, priceless items and lives have been lost. Communities have come together to support those affected by the wildfires. We can honor their experiences by increasing awareness, being prepared and helping in a variety of ways.
According to U.S. Forest Service research, nearly 85% of wildland fires in the United States are caused by humans. Human-caused fires result from:
Unattended camp fires: If camping or building a fire, do it away from trees or bushes. Have a way to extinguish the fire quickly and completely. Never leave it unattended. Allow time for the last of the firewood to burn down to coals and the flames to go out. Spread the coals to allow them to cool faster. Douse the campfire area, cover the embers and surrounding area with your dousing material. Using a long skewer, stick or shovel, stir the remaining ash around to find any remaining embers. Douse and stir until cold. Check again and repeat as needed.
Burning of debris: With red-flag warning days and the drought, outdoor burning is dangerous.
In Albuquerque, if the pile exceeds 3 feet by 3 feet, call the Fire Marshal’s Office at (505) 764-6300 and Environmental Health (505) 768-2617 for information on obtaining a permit. The city of Albuquerque Burn/No-Burn Hotline is (505) 768-2876. If it is a burn day, notify fire dispatch at (505) 833-7390.
Bernalillo County residents, please call the Bernalillo Open Burning Hot Line at (505) 468-7200.
Equipment use and malfunctions: Lawn mowers, weed-eaters, chain saws, grinders, welders, tractors and trimmers can all spark a wildland fire. Don’t drive your vehicle on grass or brush. Report issues with power lines to your utility company.
Negligently discarded cigarettes: Use proper containers. Now would be a fine time to quit smoking.
• See a fire, call 911. Identify the nearest physical address and/or cross streets or nearby landmarks. Most importantly, BE SAFE! Never approach smoke or fire. Leave the area as soon as you detect it and then call 911.
Follow the closures of public lands.
• Create defensible space to separate your home from flammable vegetation and materials – minimum 30 feet.
• Adhere to weed abatement ordinances. Rake up fallen leaves and pine needles – including from rocks.
• Keep all trees and shrub limbs trimmed so they do not come into contact with electrical wires or overhang your chimney. Do not trim around power lines yourself; call a professional.
• Prune all lower branches 8 feet from the ground.
• Keep trees adjacent to buildings free of dead or dying branches.
• Stack firewood away from your home and other buildings, and keep clearance around your piles.
• Have several ways to receive alerts. Download the FEMA app and receive real-time alerts from the National Weather Service. Download the Red Cross app.
• Make an emergency plan. What is your evacuation route? What is your family communication plan? Ready.gov has printable plans.
• Make an emergency supply kit. Ready.gov has printable plans to get you started.
• Build your to-go kit. Pack what you can take with you. Keep an old pair of shoes and a flashlight handy in case of a sudden night evacuation. Back in your car and know where the keys are. Secure your pets so they are ready to go with you.
• Take a cellphone video of your home, inside and outside, to document your property. Put it on a thumb drive and in a safety deposit box.
• Go when the authorities say go.
• People affected by these wildfires can apply for federal support – including financial or housing assistance – at disasterassistance.gov or by calling 800-621-3362, TTY 1-200-462-7585.
• The Red Cross and many local organizations are helping those affected by the wildfires. Money donations allow the nonprofit to use it on the assessed need. Find an organization that fits with your desire to give – cash donations, food banks, clothing, and support for pets and livestock.
• Make sure the organization you give to is reputable.
• Volunteer. There are many opportunities: Albuquerque Open Space Trail Watch Volunteer Program, Forest Service volunteers and organizations that provide disaster relief services.