Study Predicts More Urban Wildfires

Nov 4, 2013

Fire in Organ Mountains, Las Cruces, NM
Credit Cyndy via Flickr
Silver Fire
Credit Mike Gillespie via Flickr

Tres Lagunas. Thompson Ridge. Silver. Jaroso.  These are the familiar names of the massive wildfires that burned rural parts of New Mexico in 2013.  Although nearly 200 thousand acres burned here this year, the loss of property was relatively minimal.  But CoreLogic, an international analytics company that specializes in real estate, says the next fire could be closer to home. 

The newly released Wildfire Hazard Risk Report for 2013 shows that more than 10,500 properties around Albuquerque are at “high” or “very high” risk of wildfire damage.  Tijeras, Sandia Park, Edgewood, and Cedar Crest are most threatened, but some Placitas, Albuquerque, and Rio Rancho neighborhoods are also vulnerable. Statewide, fires have the potential to cost the state at least $1.1 billion.

The homes most at risk are those built adjacent to wilderness areas, characterized by “natural vegetation with some areas represented by very dense forest or brush,” the report said. Another factor cited for increased risk is the exceptionally dry weather over the last several years.  State Fire Marshal John Standefer told the Albuquerque Journal that conditions are allowing fires to burn much more aggressively than they had in the past. 

Urban wildfire is not a new problem.  The CoreLogic report says that the Southwestern U.S. has a long history with wildfires coming into contact with populated areas and the danger is increasing.  Since 1990, 10 million of the nearly 19 million homes built in the U.S. were constructed along the outskirts of cities, often in areas where new buildings are surrounded by wildland, the report explains. 

Bernalillo County Fire Marshall Chris Gober told the Albuquerque Journal that wildfire in Albuquerque is inevitable.  Managing the risk, Gober said, is the solution.

According to the BCFD website, there are steps that can be taken to reduce wildfire risk to a property. 

  • Clear at least thirty feet around a building
  • Space newly planted trees carefully
  • Use driveways, sidewalks, and lawns to create zones with breaks in between
  • Trim bushes and trees often, removing dead branches
  • Mow grass regularly
  • Store firewood away from buildings.

BCFD  has 40 firefighters ready to challenge blazes from the Bosque to the Sandia mountains.  Typically wildfire season lasts from April through July.