“Fire season” typically starts around May, with warm and dry weather that precede the monsoons in New Mexico. This year the fire season started in February.

Fire departments are networking with Forest Rangers, forest stations, sheriffs, the National Weather Service and communities around the region.

Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties held community meetings in early March and Torrance County held a meeting to get all of the emergency agencies organized and prepared for fires the upcoming season is likely to bring.

March has already had small fires start in various parts of the East Mountains. On March 6 a small brush fire started off of Hwy. 14 and Torres Trail. “The fire burned approximately 1/8 of an acre and no structures were threatened as a result,” said Steve Lopez from the Bernalillo Fire Department. He also said that the response time was about 3 to 4 minutes. According to Lopez, the county is very concerned about the condition of the weather and vegetation in the area and they are staying on top of it.

On March 5, the Sandia Ranger District along with Bernalillo County and New Mexico State Forestry crews assisted Kirtland Air Force Base in suppressing the PJ Fire, which started Sunday afternoon. The fire was located in the Withdrawn Area of the Sandia Ranger District controlled by the Department of Defense. The estimated size of the fire grew to approximately 200 acres and was wind-driven through most of the evening. A cold front helped slow its growth, and Kirtland reported containment the next day. There were no threats or evacuations in place as a result of the fire and the cause of the fire is still unknown.

A small fire at Lexco Road and Route 66. Photo by Tamara Bicknell-Lombardi

On March 16, there was a brush fire off of Lexco Road and Route 66. A total of 2.5 acres was burned. There is a building on the property where the fire burned.

According to Chief Todd Hart of the Moriarty Fire Department, “A tree outside of it was infringing on the building but it was extinguished before it harmed the building.” Hart said that the point of origin of the fire was found, but the cause of the fire is still undetermined.

The Moriarty Fire Department responded within 6 minutes of getting the call, Hart said. Seven firefighters from Moriarty Fire responded, along with three from Torrance County District 2. Hart said there is an open burn ban in effect in both Moriarty and Torrance County.

The City of Moriarty and the Town of Estancia are following the county’s lead and are enforcing the ban. Tijeras has an open burn ban in effect as well. Edgewood is not under any restrictions at this time but fire danger is high in Santa Fe County.

The unincorporated areas of Bernalillo County have an open burn policy for the winter. Through March 31 open burns are permitted from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Calling the Burn Hotline prior to an open burn is a requirement of the county. Residents call 505-468-7200 prior to burning on each given day. There are several restrictions for open burning in Bernalillo County. More information regarding those rules can be found online at www.bernco.gov.

Santa Fe County has an open burn policy for the winter but residents must obtain a permit first which can be obtained from the local fire districts or online at santafecountynm.gov. Residents are also required to contact the Santa Fe County Fire Prevention Division and contact the Regional Emergency Communications center at 505-428-3730 or 800-742-1144 prior to burning.

Moriarty Fire Department 505-832-4301

Estancia Fire Department 505-384-4338

Edgewood Fire Department 505-281-4697

Mountainair Fire Department 505-847-2226

Stanley Fire Department 505-832-2664

Bernalillo County Burn Line 505-771-7104

Bernalillo County Fire Department Tijeras Mcgrane 505-281-3511

Bernalillo County Fire Department Tijeras HWY 337 505-314-0150

Bernalillo County Fire Department Sandia Park 505-314-0100

La Madera Volunteer Fire Department 505-286-5468