River is a small mountain town located in northern New Mexico
with 484 permanent residents. Five subdivisions, with over
500 houses, reside just outside the town's jurisdiction.
Most of these properties are used from June to August each
year. At the height of summer the local population can increase
to near 10,000. According to the 2000
census, the median home value is $160,300 with 58% of
the homes occupied seasonally. The median household income
River is situated in a narrow, steep and heavily wooded
canyon bordering the Carson National Forest on all sides.
The town sits at 8,750 feet in elevation and extremely dense
forests of mixed conifer and spruce fir place the town and
at great risk of catastrophic wildfire. The surrounding
forest attracts a large number of outdoor enthusiasts who
hike, camp and recreate year round. The high recreational
use of the forest increases the chance of a human ignited
fire. A further concern is the prevailing wind from the
southeast, which makes Red River especially vulnerable to
a wildfire from this direction. This small community is
also challenged with educating a large population of absentee
homeowners about the extreme wildfire threat.
the wildfire threat
1996 Hondo fire prompted the evacuation of Red River for
three days and motivated the town into action. The Red River
Urban Interface Group (RRUIG) formed in 1996, and created
a partnership between federal, state and local fire agencies
to address the wildfire risk facing Red River. The group
prioritized areas requiring fuels reduction treatments and
developed a Strategic Plan to achieve established objectives.
The Strategic Plan sets out goals in four areas; 1) develop
better wildfire suppression capabilities, 2) address the
fuel hazards themselves, 3) educate the public not only
about the risk but how they could contribute in addressing
the risk, and 4) consider building code opportunities. The
RRUIG's primary goal is to protect the community first by
creating a buffer around the community that will not sustain
a crown fire.
Fire Plan (NFP) Community Assistance Programs
New Mexico, NFP Community Assistance Programs incentivize
communities to address their wildfire threat through five
grant programs; 1) 20 Communities Cost-Share Program, supports
thinning on private land, 2) Economic
Action Programs, develops economic opportunities related
to traditionally underutilized wood products 3) Volunteer/Rural
Fire Assistance, improves firefighting capabilities
of rural fire departments 4) Four
Corners Sustainable Forest Partnerships, promotes community
development through forest restoration and 5) Collaborative
Forest Restoration Program, supports projects to restore
forests on public lands.
River aggressively seeks monies through the NFP Community
Assistance Programs. Red River received $298,400 in grants
during 2001 and in 2002 received $289,000.