USA — If wildfire suppression assistance is needed beyond the Mescalero Apache Reservation boundary, a tribal agency has pledged its help.
Ray Ruiz, the chief of Fire Operations within the tribe’s Division of Resource Management and Protection, told the Greater Ruidoso Area Wildland Urban Interface Working Group Tuesday that he and his resources are available.
Ruiz said he wanted to “set the record straight” over a requirement of going through the Bureau of Indian Affairs to ask for fire fighting resources.
“We are completely different from BIA. We are our own entity. We have our own meetings. We have our own resources and our own policies and procedures.”
Ruiz told the wildland urban interface group that they would be seeing him regularly.
“Mescalero has a great value of resources,” Ruiz said. “We have two type-6 (can pump 30 gallons per minute) engines. We are in the process of picking up a type-3 (120 gallons per minute) engine that we’re going to be bringing on board. At any given time, like right now, I have 80 people out in the field that are ready and red-carded (wildland firefighter qualified) to assist our partners, our cooperators, in any type of all-risk, wildland fire or RX (prescribed) burn. I want you to know that we are there.”
Ruiz said his department was reaching out to both Lincoln County and Otero County. The cooperators were seen as the BIA, Mescalero Fire and Rescue, the Forest Service, New Mexico State Forestry, the Office of Emergency Services in both counties, Ruidoso, Ruidoso Downs and Tularosa.
“We have not been a participant. Part of it is our fault. But I want you to know that I’m the new coach now. We’re not going to sit on the sideline anymore. We’re going to participate. We’re going to play.”
Ruiz said his troops are divided into four crews.
“We have our own transportation. We have crew carriers. We have support vehicles. And just like any Hot Shot crew we can sustain ourselves for 24 hours. We are self-sufficient.”
Other wildland fire fighting equipment, such as a grader and a backhoe are a part of the department.
Ruiz pledged he would notify the surrounding area when prescribed burns are planned for the reservation.
“Where I come from, we let our neighbors know what’s going on, what time is our party, and do you guys want to participate. I can tell you this. We are planning on taking over our own prescribed burn program. That’s another reason why I was brought here.”
Ruiz said he would like to conduct prescribed burns across boundary lines with the Forest Service.
Ruiz came to Mescalero from California where he was part of a tribal fire department east of San Diego. He was the founder of a distinguished Native American Hot Shot crew.