It takes a village
Editor’s Note: This is part three of a three-part series on the Village of Corrales’ unique — but effective — fire suppression system. Parts one and two ran Friday and Saturday, respectively. See the Observer web site for the first two parts.
The Corrales Fire Department has proven time and again its ability to protect the village from catastrophic fires.
The June 2021, Gossett Lane Fire was a large fire that quickly could have gotten out of control. Temperatures that day were in the 100s, and the cotton was blowing, aggravating an already dangerous situation with cars, tires and parts of the bosque already on fire.
With assistance from the fire departments in Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, and Sandoval County, the Corrales Fire Department was able to get the fire under control. No lives were lost, and, thanks to an already established protocol, livestock in the area were safely evacuated.
The Rancho de Corrales fire in July 2012 was another very large fire, in which no lives were lost although the building — an historical structure — was destroyed.
According to Fire Chief Anthony Martinez, it took more than 10 hours to get the fire under control.
“We drained our tank,” he said, “And it was 120,000-plus gallons. We had to get water out of the ditch. We were recycling water. We used so much water it was puddling.”
Speculating on how many people may have watched the Rancho de Corrales fire, Mayor Jim Fahey said, “…they would realize what a big deal a fire in the bosque with 300 homes at risk could be.”
Fahey explained that when the bosque is dry, which it has been and will continue to be as the state is still in the middle of an extreme drought, all it would take is “one spark and we’re gone.”
The bosque contains over 650 acres of open land, parts of which abut people’s homes. A bosque fire could quickly spread out of control, as the fires in the northern part of the state did last month.
Even when the bosque was quite dry, Martinez didn’t anticipate closing it. He wanted the people who were doing good to report the wrongdoers, those who may be riding motorcycles, smoking or camping.
Martinez called on residents to do what they can to prevent or mitigate fires:
“The property owners — the landowners — they need to do their part, too, to protect our community… It takes a village and it takes everybody right now — all hands on deck — trying to evaluate your home and property and see what you can do to try to minimize any sort of wildfire or any sort of accident.”
One way to minimize a wildfire, according to Martinez, is to remember cotton from the many cottonwoods in the village is flammable.
“Wet down that cotton on your property,” he said. “It’s like gasoline.”
Fahey reminded people that horse manure, especially when covered in wood chips, can spontaneously combust. The manure is rich in nitrogen, and when temperatures rise, the manure decomposes and can catch fire.
A solution is to wet down compost and manure piles.
Referring to the system the Corrales Fire Department has in place and the need to continue improving that system, Fahey said:
“Now I don’t mean to be an alarmist, but you got to be pragmatic about these things and approach them in a rational way and say look, here we have life insurance, we have automobile insurance. Why don’t we have some kind of village insurance? And this [the ongoing improvement] is an investment in that insurance that at least, we may not save everything, but we’ll prevent the entire village from being destroyed because that can happen.”