Homeless camps increase fire danger

Posted at: 04/23/2013 6:41 PM
Updated at: 04/23/2013 7:09 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Albuquerque police are ramping up their bosque patrols after Monday’s two acre fire in the riverside forest that runs through the heart of the city of Albuquerque.

There was no lightning that could have caused the fire – no flaming meteors or live volcanoes either. That leaves the blame squarely on human beings, and that’s what cops are looking for in the bosque.

Homeless people camp in the bosque and they light fires to keep warm at night. Cops found one campsite this morning under the Central Avenue bridge on the west bank of the river. There were signs of a recent campfire and lots of cigarette butts.

Firefighters said there was a similar campsite close to the bosque fire that broke out Monday on Rio Bravo just east of the river.

With the weather warming up, the bosque trails are full of people hiking and biking and running, and every one of them will tell you they’re worried about the woods being so dired out and dangerous in the third straight springtime of severe drought.  They will also tell you they’re deeply concerned about the homeless.

“We should be making sure they have places to go,” said runner Katie Harmoney. ”That’s so they don’t feel like they’re driven to camp out in the outdoors where it’s maybe not safe at night  and then starting fires, which I’m sure they actually know is unsafe.”

“People are people,” said runner Jeff Pike. “They can be careless whether they’re homeless or not homeless. People who are walking on the trail could be smoking a cigarette and it could have equal dangers, so I think education is probably the most important thing, if that’s possible.”

There are year-round rules for the bosque, whether it’s fire season or not: No camping, no open fires, no fireworks, and no smoking.

Last year the city did a partial closure of the bosque right before the 4th of July when the fire danger was at its peak. Firefighters tell us that could easily happen again this year and maybe even earlier.