Ominous black smoke billowed above the tree canopy near homes near the end of Gossett Lane Sunday afternoon, June 13, sending fire fighters scrambling. At 1:10 p.m., the outdoor temperature in Corrales had climbed to 106 degrees, and highly flammable cottonwood seeds had clumped along fence lines and landscaping during a steady but shifting breeze, augmenting the risk that followed a series of what were reported as explosions. Property was charred, but no one was injured. While neighbors hosed down their homes, livestock was quickly rescued, thanks to an already prepared evacuation protocol. A neighbor, Mei Hua, posted this description to You Tube: “A huge explosion shook the house. Ran outside and the neighbor’s yard and a portion of the bosque were ablaze.”
A cause for the fire was not immediately clear. A neighbor said a large branch may have fallen from a tree on the property, so that may have pulled down a power line that ignited the blaze. When a transformer on a power line fails for one of several reasons, it produces a loud boom and a fireball accompanied by a large plume of smoke. That description would seem to fit what was reported that Sunday afternoon, but Fire Chief Anthony Martinez, still on scene nearly six hours later, said a transformer had not blown. The Fire Department’s Tanya Lattin said the following day that “the cause is under investigation.” The sounds of explosions were said to have been tires bursting from the heat. Lattin said she would not speculate about the cause, but noted “tires are loud and there were lots of them on the property.”
“It was a really big fire,” Martinez said. Units responded from Rio Rancho, Albuquerque and Sandoval County to assist Corrales fire fighters. Lattin said the fire was difficult to contain due to numerous “cars, boats, machinery, shed, dog houses, piles of wood, piles of tires, fences, multiple large cottonwood trees and fencing.
“When the Fire Department arrived on scene, around 25 cars, a large stack of tires, trees and fences were on fire. I’m sure some of the back sheds were burning as well.
“The home was surrounded 180 degrees by high-intensity flames, with the back fence and neighbor’s bamboo burning.” Battalion Commander Lattin said the house did not burn although the attic space “was hot and smoking.”