ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Firefighters were called to the Rio Grande bosque twice Tuesday afternoon to put out four fires within five hours, from Tingley Beach to south of the National Hispanic Cultural Center.
The first fire the Albuquerque Fire Department responded to was a grass-fueled blaze just south of Tingley Beach, reported around 1:30 p.m. It took 27 firefighters about an hour to get the blaze controlled, said AFD commander Charles Zamora.
The quarter-acre fire started about 300 yards from the bike path and crews had to pump water from the Rio Grande to help extinguish it. Firefighters contained the fire but remained on site to “mop up” the area – meaning to make sure the fire doesn’t reignite, Zamora said.
Shortly after 5 p.m., firefighters returned to the bosque, this time to fight three more fires about a quarter acre in size each. They were 200 to 300 yards apart from one another, south of the National Hispanic Cultural Center, said deputy fire chief Victor Padilla.
“This is the fourth fire within a five-hour time period,” Padilla said. “Once the fires are declared under control, investigators are on the scene to begin their investigation into the cause.”
The department hadn’t given any clues as to how the fires may have started.
The three later fires were scattered from near Eighth and Bridge SW to Second and Woodward SW. Padilla said the fires weren’t spreading as of 6 p.m. Tuesday. The Corrales Fire Department and the Bernalillo County Fire Department helped AFD, and 22 fire fighting units were on scene.
Albuquerque resident Norman Everett and his friend were placing a geocache – a small container hidden for others to find – along the bosque when they spotted the smoke.
“We went over there to check it out and saw that there was a fire,” Everett said. “So we called 911.”
Everett said he only saw one of the fires but the flames were large – at one point reaching 15 to 20 feet.
“It looked like it was calming down for a minute and then there was an explosion and it flared back up,” he said.
The bosque fires were the first wildland blazes in Albuquerque this season, Padilla said.
Zamora cautioned residents who visit the bosque to avoid setting fires accidentally.
“The state of New Mexico, along with many other states in Southwest, are in a drought right now,” Zamora said. “It’s always a good thing to be safe, especially around the bosque.”