Drought conditions continue and this year’s fire season is looking bleak for the East Mountains and Estancia Valley, with Red Flag conditions forecast statewide for the next few weeks.

There are approximately 25,000 residents and the area is considered the state’s largest wildland-urban interface community, according to the 2015 East Mountain Community Wildfire Protection Plan.

According to the wildfire protection plan, in the last several years, the goals for fire mitigation have shifted from preventing fire to accepting the inevitability of fires and preparing for them.

The East Mountains and Estancia Valley have inter-agency cooperation in the event of fire emergencies. Bernalillo, Santa Fe, Sandoval and Torrance County fire departments work closely with local police and sheriff departments, as well as the Forest Service, State Forestry, and East Mountain Interagency Fire Protection Agency (EMIFPA). See below for links.

EMIFPA serves as both a go-between for local agencies to communicate and network and community education, outreach and volunteer opportunities for community members.

They are a group whose members are comprised of fire protection, emergency management, and law enforcement agencies, as well as local residents and businesses. EMIFPA provides a variety of services to the community including inter-agency coordination, community outreach, education, training, and projection coordination. They meet monthly and send out regular updates all throughout fire season.

In the wildfire protection plan, strategies are to restore and maintain resilient landscapes, creating fire-adapted communities and responding to wildfires. Things like prescribed burns, thinning trees on public land, and fuel reduction treatment are included in these efforts.

Fire-adapted communities are defined as communities that “acknowledge and take responsibility for their wildfire risk and take actions to protect their homes, neighborhoods, businesses and future infrastructure decisions.” In other words, creating a defensible space around homes and businesses and also taking fire conditions into account for future developments.

Creating a defensible space:

Clear leaves and other debris from gutters, eaves, porches and decks. This prevents embers from igniting the house.

Remove dead vegetation and other items from under deck or porch, and within 10 feet of the house.

Screen or box-in areas below patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent debris and combustible materials from accumulating.

Remove flammable materials (firewood stacks, propane tanks) within 30 feet of home’s foundation and outbuildings, including garages and sheds. If it can catch fire, don’t let it touch the house, deck or porch.

Wildfire can spread to tree tops. Prune trees so the lowest branches are 6 to 10 feet from the ground.

Keep lawns hydrated and maintained. If it is brown, cut it down to reduce fire intensity. Dry grass and shrubs are fuel for wildfire.

Don’t let debris and lawn cuttings linger. Dispose of these items quickly to reduce fuel for fire.

Inspect shingles or roof tiles. Replace or repair those that are loose or missing to prevent ember penetration.

Cover exterior attic vents with metal wire mesh no larger than 1/8 inch to prevent sparks from entering the home.

Enclose under-eave and soffit vents or screens with metal mesh to prevent ember entry.

Creating an emergency plan

Assemble an emergency supply kit and place it in a safe spot. Remember to include important documents, medications and personal identification.

Develop an emergency evacuation plan and practice it with everyone in home. Plan two ways out of the neighborhood (if possible) and designate a meeting place.

According to the Wildfire Protection Plan, suppression infrastructure has improved in the East Mountains. All of the Bernalillo County Fire Stations had upgrades, and the McGrane Public Safety Complex is an integrated incident command center and helibase.

Water is supplied to the East Mountain hydrants by more than one provider. There is ongoing mapping and assessing to help ensure that fire engines can readily locate and access reliable water supplies. Access to water remains a significant challenge across a vast area, so improving and expanding water supplies for fire suppression remains a priority. EMIFPA and various agency partners do several mock wildfire incident exercises every year.

Another important partner is the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). Authorized under the Department of Homeland Security, the CERT program is used to educate people about disaster preparedness and response.

Training for community members of CERT teams includes skills such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. East Mountain CERT has filled a significant void in local preparedness by focusing on the issue of livestock evacuation. East Mountain CERT members work year round to prepare for disaster and help their neighbors in the even of an emergency.

LINKS: FIRE & EMERGENCY INFO

New Mexico Fire Information: nmfireinfo.com/

National Fire Protection: Firewise.org

East Mountain Interagency Fire Protection Association: emifpa.org

Cibola National Forest: fs.usda.gov/cibola/

Fire Map: fireweatheravalanche.org/fire/state/new-mexico

Fire and Smoke Map: fire.airnow.gov/

Air Quality: cabq.gov/airquality

Santa Fe County Emergency Manager: santafecountynm.gov/fire/ emergency_management_division

Santa Fe County Fire Department: santafecountynm.gov/fire/fire_chief_and_command_staff

Torrance County Emergency Manager: torrancecountynm.org/departments/emergency-mgmt.

Torrance County Fire Department: torrancecountynm.org/departments/fire-chief

Bernalillo County Emergency Manager: bernco.gov/emergency-management/

Bernalillo County Fire Department: bernco.gov/fire/fire-districts/

Reverse 911: bernco.gov/emergency-notification-opt-in/

Sandoval County Emergency Manager: sandovalcountynm.gov/fire/emergency-management/

Sandoval County Fire Department: sandovalcountynm.gov/fire/

Cuidad Soil and Water Conservation District: ciudadswcd.org/

East Torrance Soil and Water District: 505-384-2272

Edgewood Soil and Water District: eswcd.org/

Claunch-Pinto Soil and Water District: claunchpinto.org/

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: noaa.gov/

National Weather Service Albuquerque: weather.gov/abq/

Free Emergency Notification: nixle.com

SW Fire Consortium, coordinates research and outreach for fire science: swfireconsortium.org

Red Cross: redcross.org/newmexico

Farm Service Agency: fsa.usda.gov

Small Business Administration: sba.gov/disaster

Natural Resources Conservation Service: nrcs.usda.gov

NM Environment Department: env.nm.gov

NM Energy and Minerals Deparment: emnrd.state.nm.us/SFD

NM Association of Conservation Districts: nmacd.org

NM Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management: nmdhsem.org

NM Community Foundation: nmcf.org

Free Information and Referral Center after a fire: Dial 2-1-1

Tijeras Fire Department: 505-281-3511

Edgewood Fire Department: 505-281-4697

Moriarty Fire Department: 505-832-4301

Estancia Fire Department: 505-384-4338

Mountainair Fire Department: 505-847-2226