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Wildfire Awareness in the Jemez Mountains

Wildfire Awareness in the Jemez Mountains: Save the dates for events in April.

Every year as the winter snows recede and the spring winds start blowing, we begin to think of the dry summer months ahead and the increasing wildfire risks that we all face as residents in the Jemez Mountains. This year is especially worrisome, as accumulated snowfall has been far below average, while temperatures have been above average. Even if we do get more moisture before summer, we will most likely still be in drought conditions during our fire season. More and more residents and visitors are recognizing that large wildfires will occur in the Jemez, and if not this year, then next year or the year after that. Jemez Mountains have had the dubious honor of being a trend setter with some memorable large uncontrolled fires. And every year in the Southwestern US, large and dangerous wildfires continue to occur and are likewise becoming almost a normal expectation here in the Jemez.

Carelessly, people abandon dozens of campfires on the Jemez Ranger District every year, and one of those resulted in the 1,400 acre Cajete Fire, impacting the east side of one of our communities only last year. We face similar and increasing ignition risks this year and in coming years from campfires and many other sources such as lightning strikes, tossed burning cigarettes, unscreened sparks from combustion motors or chimneys, over heated catalytic converters in dry grass, downed power lines in a high wind, and (more and more likely) the burning embers from an established fire up wind.

So let us start thinking, planning and preparing to decrease risks to homes and people, and to consider appropriate responses when the next wildfire occurs near or within our neighborhoods.
Anyone interested and specifically residents and property owners of the Greater Eastern Jemez Corridor are cordially invited to a series of free events on the first three Saturdays in April (7th, 14, and 21st) to help residents and property owners plan and prepare for the upcoming Fire Season. The Greater Eastern Jemez includes but is not limited to Jemez Springs, Areas 1, 2, & 3, La Cueva, Seven Springs, Thompson Ridge, Sierra Los Pinos Area, & Cochiti Mesa. Please save the dates and attend one or all the events described below.

On Saturday evening, April 7th from 5-9 PM at Madonna Hall in Jemez Springs, Dinner and a Movie will be offered. A spaghetti dinner (with options for those with gluten allergies) will be provided and the 2017 film “Only the Brave” will be shown, accompanied with a discussion about wildfire risks to properties, residents, and fire fighters. This movie is about the Granite Mountain Hot Shot crew that tragically lost 19 of their crew members in a wildfire in 2013 near Prescott, Arizona. That crew fought the Thompson Ridge Fire in the Jemez Mountains a few weeks before their deaths.

On Saturday morning April 14th, from 9 AM – 1 PM at the Jemez Mountain Baptist Church in La Cueva, the 8th Annual Fire Preparedness Workshop will be held with short presentations from experts and public discussion regarding the context of wildfire problems in the Jemez, fire and fuels management in the Jemez, emergency preparations for wildfires, and ways to reduce risks to properties and lives. Signup sheets will be available to indicate interest in events planned for April 21st.

On Saturday April 21st , Earth Day (times and locations to be determined) and depending upon public interest, Field Trip Tours and practical examples of grant funding opportunities for homeowners to assist in reducing fuels on private properties will be provided to those RSVP’ing. Sign up opportunities can be found at the April 14th event or by calling .Tom Swetnam 575-829-4649, or Harrison Jones, 575-829-3669, to express your interest and reserve your space.

The financial arrangements for the April 7th movie are kindly provided by the Jemez Valley Credit Union, and sponsored by the Greater Eastern Jemez Wildland Urban Interface Corp., the 8th Annual Fire Preparedness Workshop is sponsored by the La Cueva Volunteer Fire Department, Sandoval County Fire District 5, and Jemez Mountain Baptist Church.