Possible early fire season sparks concern

ALBUQUThis is still officially winter, but you won’t see a lot of snow on the ground and the signs warn of high fire danger in areas across the state.

It is mid-February but during what should be a quiet time, firefighters are seeing action.

Flames started tearing through the Bosque on the Isleta Pueblo over the weekend, and crews had to tackle a grass fire near Belen this afternoon.

“We have had very little rain and very little snow this winter,” said Lt. Michael Everett of the Bernalillo County Fire Department. “The jet stream has dropped way low, causing it to push out any moisture, causing a lot of high winds at this time.”

Lt. Everett, at station 40 in the East Mountains, said the concern has sparked an early start to wildfire training at his station.

So, is this the start to fire season?

“I would say, definitely, yes,” Lt. Everett said. “It is starting early and everybody needs to be aware, just be very careful.”

“With weather changing, nothing is typical anymore,” said Karen Takai with the U.S. Forest Service.

Takai said the Forest Service is also focused on training right now.

“This has been an ongoing thing for many years, and we do know that these fires that are happening now are quite large and catastrophic and so that is on the radar for all of the fire agencies,” Takai said.

But, she said, it should also be on the radar for people living in dry, rural areas who can help get rid of dry brush that fuels fires.

Meanwhile, Lt. Everett said his crew is taking every smoke call they get very seriously, trying to stay on top of what could be a very long year.

“It is going to get worse before it gets better,” Lt. Everett said.

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