EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The Australian fires have some people in El Paso wondering if a large brush fire could happen in our area.
The West Valley Fire Department in 2019 said they responded to a total of 77 fires in the Upper Valley Area. More than half of those fires were brush fires.
“The terrain and everything in El Paso area and the great deserts in the Southwest is a little bit different than what you’re going to find in Australia or LA or one of those places that you read about having the big fires. But we do get some large brush fires that are 100 acres in size,” said Boyd Smith the Assistant Fire Chief of West Valley Fire.
West Valley fire is prepared to battle brush fires with their specialized brush fire engines.
Most brush fires happen in areas where fire hydrants might be scarce, which is why brush engines are able to carry their own water and are capable of four-wheel drive.
Firefighters also wear different gear when fighting brush fires compared to structure fires.
Brush gear is lightweight and hiking boots are used so firefighters can easily maneuver through rough terrain.
“We’re doing a lot of movement, a lot of up and down movement trying to contain these fires. So wearing the regular structural gear during a wildland fire, imagine a nice sunny July day in El Paso, it would wear the guys out pretty quick,” said Smith.
West Valley Fire says the lightweight gear is the same type used by the firefighters battling the Australia fires.
Although brush fires are common in El Paso, West Valley warns that many people go to Ruidoso for vacation or own cabins there and they need to be extra careful because of the high risk of brush fires.
“Several people who live in El Paso have cabins in Ruidoso. If you do have cabins or homes up there please keep those areas safe there’s a lot of fires in that area,” said Smith.