ALAMOSA– Prompted by the fire in Monte Vista three months ago that destroyed numerous structures plus a July report to city council from Alamosa Fire Chief Don Chapman that “June was the busiest month in thirty years”, the city of Alamosa is being proactive in assessing fire risks on city property, specifically focusing on the potential intensity of a fire should one occur.
The intensity of a fire is largely determined by the amount of “fuel” present, such as dried grasses, undergrowth and trees. The assessment was conducted using tools gained in training city staff attended with the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission.
During the July 20 Alamosa City Council meeting, City Manager Heather Brooks and Rachel Baird, director of Development Services, presented a map showing results of the assessment with areas color-coded by level of risk ranked from lowest to highest intensity.
The assessment reveals that, of all property owned by the city, a fire occurring on land to the east side of the Rio Grande River would likely be moderately intense with some areas suggesting a higher degree of intensity– again, due to the amount of fuel present.
Predictably, that swath of land includes areas that could be described as wildlands, including the Alamosa Riparian Park, parts of the Alamosa Ranch, Blanca Vista Park and the “Wilderness Area”.
Several locations of vacant and improved city property are also assessed at the moderate level of fire intensity but the vast majority of city parks – such as Carroll, Sunset, Friends, Zapata and much of Cole Parks – are at minimal risk, as is the Water Treatment Plant.
As a result of the assessment, city staff have three plans for mitigation – to mow the perimeter of an identified area, to mow the entirety of an area and/or to remove existing underbrush.
According to Baird, mowing the perimeter and removing existing underbrush are the most likely steps to be taken.
In larger areas, such as Alamosa Ranch or Blanca Vista Park, mowing the entire area is neither feasible nor advisable for a number of reasons. In those locations, as well as others, Baird says the focus is on preserving and protecting existing structures, especially if the land is immediately adjacent to residential areas.
It was also brought up by council that there are areas of private land within city limits where an untended abundance of grasses and underbrush places the property and others in the immediate vicinity at significant risk of an intense fire.
Alamosa City Manager Heather Brooks stated that the city is planning on conducting the same assessment on private land at some point in the future but when that will happen is yet to be determined.