Neighbors battle small blaze in northwest Albuquerque arroyo, blame fireworks

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Dry, hot conditions have firefighters on high alert, this Independence Day. Officials are cautioning locals to take care when they celebrate.

Residents in one northwest Albuquerque neighborhood say they found out first hand what happens when people don’t. Now, they hope others can learn from their experience, Monday night.

“I grabbed a couple shovels, ran down and we tried to control it.”

Rick Shean wasted no time.

“She told us, ‘There’s a fire behind your house! I just called 911,'” said Shean.

As soon as his neighbor said the word, “fire”, Shean and his wife sprang into action.

“We got a hose, went outside, made sure we were spraying down our trees, spraying the brush immediately outside our wall,” Shean recalled.

All he could think about was the arroyo, turned tinderbox, behind his home.

“It had enough fuel to really take off,” said Shean. “We were watching the flames start going up that side.”

Albuquerque Fire Lt. Brian Fox and his wildland team are patrolling the city’s 37,000 acres of open space land for exactly that reason.

“The rains we had during the off-season, we have a lot of grass and shrubs and now they’re starting to dry out,” said Lt. Fox.

He says those are the types of fuels that light easy and spread quickly.

“They’re hard to catch if there is a fire,” he said.

Lt. Fox says four brush trucks are on duty, July fourth, on the lookout for anyone violating Stage One Fire Restrictions– that’s open flames, cooking, campfires and fireworks.

“Watched about 5 or 6 shows right here from this part of the block,” he said.

Shean says he believes fireworks started this small blaze.

This arroyo was a selling point for Shean, but considering fire danger and his experience the last three nights, he is reconsidering his July 4th plans.

“Having second thoughts, at least, for maybe one of us staying back,” said Shean.

He says he and another neighbor shoveled sand on the fire for about fifteen minutes, until firefighters arrived.

Albuquerque Wildland Fire officials say they’ll be out, tonight, patrolling open space areas in the Bosque, the Foothills and the West Mesa.

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