Kudos on quick response to S14 fire

On Saturday, a fire broke out in David Canyon on Forest Service land in a highly populated area of South 14 near Raven Road. Quick action by emergency responders has kept this fire to 15 acres after four days—in the midst of high winds and fire danger warnings.

The fire broke out in an area treated by thinning and mastication by the Forest Service. It was described as “creeping” and “moving slowly” by a spokeswoman for the Forest Service, which means that those suppression efforts did indeed suppress this fire.

While the fire was very small, about 5 to 10 acres, fire crews used Bernalillo County helicopters to pick up water from Kirtland Air Force Base on the other side of the mountain range. The fire was totally surrounded and contained, although not “controlled,” the day it started, according to officials. In short, emergency responders did just what the thousands of people who live in the immediate vicinity hope and expect they would do—in stark contrast to the Dog Head Fire, which was started by a Forest Service contractor in June, ironically through its fire suppression efforts. The Dog Head Fire grew to a terrifying size before water and retardant drops were used on it.

We realize that differences in terrain, proximity of fire stations and the availability of people and resources make a huge difference in how quickly firefighters can pounce—but the public has a common-sense desire to see big action, and quickly, in the case of a fire in the Sandias and Manzanos. It is appreciated.

Thank you to Bernalillo County, New Mexico State Forestry, the U.S. Forest Service and its law enforcement branch, the Southern Pueblos, Department of Defense, the and any other agency which helped suppress the David Canyon Fire. You all have done a great job.

Now for a few gripes: For an audience in Albuquerque or Santa Fe, press releases sent out by the Forest Service, the county or other agencies probably have enough information to give readers a picture of what is happening. But for those living in the East Mountains, what is going on with a fire in the area is of the utmost importance and urgency when it comes to a need for reliable information, and quickly.

Many of our questions have remained unanswered. What is thought to be the cause of this fire? How recently was David Canyon treated with prescribed burns by the Forest Service? How close was that activity to this fire?

Why were representatives of this newspaper sent in circles for someone with current information, and repeatedly referred to Facebook where we found hours-old updates? Spokespersons for both Bernalillo County and the Forest Service were responsive, but didn’t offer much information.

This small fire could be considered a test run for a big fire like Dog Head, which decimated 18,000 acres in about a week. We know that forests are overgrown and there are way too many properties without defensible space—creating conditions for potential catastrophe.

Part of our effort to keep people in the area informed is the launch of a new page on The Independent’s website with fire information. We’ll update it daily during the fire season and as needed in the event of a fire.

Our plan is to go live with the new page at edgewood.news April 12. We need to be prepared to act in a purposeful and coordinated way in the event of a large fire, and a huge part of that is getting information out to the people directly affected as quickly and accurately as possible. Facebook has its place, but overall, we must do better.

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