After postponing an April meeting due to the fire rapidly spreading in the state, Bernalillo County held a fire preparedness meeting June 6 in Tijeras to explain the new “Ready, Set, Go” model for evacuations.
Bernalillo County’s Fire and Sheriff’s departments led the meeting, giving the community a more in depth look at the “Ready, Set, Go,” model they adopted from California, after a large fire devastated a large part of the state last year.
In addition to explaining how the model works, Bernalillo County Commissioner Charlene Pyskoty also let the public know what ordinances are already in place in the area with respect to current drought conditions and fire danger.
Pyskoty said the county already has a fireworks ban in place, a ban on open burning, and open spaces in the county are closed. She also said the City of Albuquerque’s open spaces and the National Forests are closed.
Fire restrictions are in place on public lands around the state.
According to Bernalillo County’s Emergency Manager, the National Weather Service predicts that June is expected to be the worst month for fire conditions this year.
Fire Chief Greg Perez said the East Mountains and Estancia Valley should be in the “Ready” phase right now, explaining that this means that folks should already have an emergency plan, all of their important documents together, a go-bag ready, a contacts list, an evacuation plan that includes a “settling point,” a person outside of the area to call, and practicing fire drills.
The “Set” phase means fire and wind conditions are bringing the fire to you and people should have their cars loaded and ready to go, Perez said.
The “Go” phase means people should be ready to jump in their cars and leave the area immediately—evacuate.
Perez said people can sign up for emergency alerts using Nixle. Those who signed up for alerts during the Dog Head Fire are already in the notification system.
Bernalillo County will use the Emergency Alert System to inform people which phase of evacuation they are in, if and when the time comes. “We have 264 firefighters in Bernalillo County ready 24/7,” Perez said.
Both the fire and sheriff’s departments said during the meeting that people who refuse to leave their homes when an evacuation has been ordered bleed resources.
The sheriff’s department said police do not have the authority to forcibly remove people from their homes in the event of an evacuation. They will try to get people to leave, but ultimately cannot make them, officials said, adding that that those who choose to stay won’t have access to resources like food, water or animal evacuation. In other words, any people who choose to stay and protect their property instead of evacuating will have to take their chances; authorities discourage it.
In addition to explaining the evacuation model, the county also had a copy of the latest version of the County Wide Protection Plan available to anyone who wanted to read it.
The county said that the public can help mitigate fire danger by creating defensible spaces around their homes, following the protocol for evacuation and by calling the sheriff’s department if they see people entering closed trailheads, and to call the fire department to report fireworks.
The Forest Service was invited to attend the meeting but were unable to attend as most of their personnel were up north fighting the fire, organizers said.
The meeting was also livestreamed and is available on Bernalillo County’s Facebook page.