Morning Word

NM Faces “Historic” Wind, Fire Danger All Weekend

State passes Clean Car Rule, with more electric cars for consumers to follow

Firefighters fortify before facing “historic” wind forecast

As expected, firefighters on the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon burn continued preparations yesterday for critical fire weather facing the state through the weekend into next week. During last night’s briefing, Air Resource Advisor John Pendergrast issued a grim warning: “I’ve been a National Weather Service employee for 29 years and 16 years on fire and I have never seen a forecast like this, anything close to it. It’s going to be a historic event because of the duration of the winds. There’s not going to be any let up in these winds.” The fire as of this morning had reached 168,009 acres, 20% containment and had more than 2,000 personnel assigned to the blaze.

The Cerro Pelado Fire, east of Jemez Springs, as of yesterday, had reached 29,368 acres and 13% containment, with just over 800 personnel. At last reporting, the fire was approximately five miles from Los Alamos National Laboratory’s southwestern corner and 10 miles from the Los Alamos townsite (see map here). According to a LANL news release, fire managers were expecting some calmer weather to aid them in dropping water and fire retardant. They also are planning a controlled burn along Alamo trail (see this map). “This is going to give the Laboratory and the County more protection by widening the defensive space between us and the fire,” LANL Wildland Fire Manager Rich Nieto said in a statement. “Residents should expect to see a lot of smoke, but it’s not a cause for concern.” Watchdog organization Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, however, yesterday posted its ongoing concerns about the Cerro Pelado Fire and its historical precedents. In some better fire news, firefighters have reached 97% containment on the human-caused Cooks Peak Fire after burning 59,359 acres north of the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon fires. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who recently visited with evacuees in Las Vegas and will give a briefing on the wildfires at 10 am today, which will stream on her Facebook page.

NM passes Clean Car Rule, more electric vehicles to follow

Following joint public hearings earlier this week, yesterday both the state Environmental Improvement Board and the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Air Quality Control Board adopted the Clean Car Rule, which includes new and more stringent vehicle emission standards, and requires manufacturers to deliver growing numbers of zero-emission vehicles for sale in the state. According to the state, the rule will make more low-emission and zero-emission passenger vehicles available, and eliminate approximately 130,000 tons of greenhouse gases and more than 1,700 tons of harmful ozone-forming air pollution in New Mexico by 2050. “Tripling the number of zero-tailpipe emission cars and trucks in New Mexico from 1,800 in 2021 to 5,600 by full phase-in of the rule benefits the health of all New Mexicans, especially those overburdened communities that live near heavily used roadways,” NMED Cabinet Secretary James Kenney said in a statement. “The increased availability of more efficient, used electric vehicles in the future will benefit low-income purchasers, who tend to spend a larger portion of their income on fuel.”

Teens detail party scene of fatal shooting

Santa Fe teens dominated the testimony yesterday in the high-profile trial for Estevan Montoya, charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Fedonta “JB” White in August, 2020. While some details of the night remain murky, witnesses’ testimonies agreed the party grew larger than intended, and involved significant alcohol intake. At one point, witnesses say they had a hard time moving around the home because of the number of people inside—the people planning the party expected 20 to 50 guests but more than 100 showed up. Another witness testified she drank 10 shots. Testimony varies, however, regarding the reception to Montoya and his friends, known as the Southside Goons, and the series of events that led to the confrontation between Montoya and White outside. Montoya’s attorney has claimed he shot White in self defense. The jury also learned more about White’s final moments during yesterday’s testimony. Prosecutors have said they will seek the maximum penalty that could land him in prison at least 30 years if convicted.

COVID-19 by the numbers

Reported May 5:

New cases: 357; 523,621 total cases

Deaths: 11; At last county, Santa Fe County has had 278 total deaths; there have been 7,547 total fatalities statewide. Hospitalizations: 53; Patients on ventilators: four

Case rate: According to DOH’s most recent report on trends across the state, as of May 2, the state had recorded 1,372 new CVID cases in the previous seven-day period—a nearly 23% increase compared with the week prior. Santa Fe County has a case rate of 18.3 per 100,000 population during the seven-day period of April 25 through May 1—the fourth highest in the state. However, SFR on Wednesday noted a 766 case discrepancy between the department’s cumulative case report for Santa Fe from last week’s report and continues to await a response from DOH.

Transmission: According to the most recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “community levels” tracking system—which uses case rates along with two hospital metrics in combination to determine the state of the virus on a county level—30 of New Mexico’s counties currently have “green”—aka low—levels, whereas Cibola, De Baca and Harding counties are at yellow, or medium. Lea County, which was the only yellow county last week, is now green. The CDC updates its map on Thursdays.

Resources: Vaccine registrationBooster registration Free at-home rapid antigen testsSelf-report a positive COVID-19 test result to the health department; COVID-19 treatment info: oral treatments Paxlovid (age 12+) and Molnupiravir (age 18+); and monoclonal antibody treatments. Toolkit for immunocompromised individuals. People seeking treatment who do not have a medical provider can call NMDOH’s COVID-19 hotline at 1-855-600-3453.

You can read all of SFR’s COVID-19 coverage here.

Listen up

On a recent episode of KRQE’s New Mexico News podcast, hosts Chris McKee and Gabrielle Burkhart speak with 13-year wildland firefighting veteran, Santa Fe Hotshot Adriano Rodriguez, just after his return from working on the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire. Rodriguez, who grew up in Cuba, New Mexico and whose parents also were wildland firefighters, is both saw boss and a squad leader for the Santa Fe Hotshots and explains what that work entails. Early April, he says, is unusually early to be called out on a full assignment. “If that’s any tell-tale sign of how the rest of the season’s going…it’s probably not a bright outlook,” he says.

Fire and querencia

Simon Romero, a New Mexico-based national correspondent for the New York Times, delves movingly into the impact the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon fire is having on people whose families have lived for generations in Northern New Mexico’s villages, who are now grappling with evacuations and destruction. Miguel Martinez, for instance, left behind 25 goats, 50 rabbits, 10 chickens and two dogs in his home in the village of El Oro and now waits out the fire in an evacuation shelter. He tells Romero: “I have no idea if my house is standing or if my animals are alive. I need to prepare for the possibility everything was wiped out.” Northern New Mexico is resilient, Romero writes, and “shaped by challenges that range from conquering armies to long economic slumps, these far-flung Hispanic villages withstood one test after another.” But unprecedented levels of drought, coupled with the high winds and accompanying blazes brings unprecedented challenges. “These fires are burning down a way of life that’s lasted hundreds of years,” State Historian Rob Martinez says.

All together now

A community festival focused on mental health could not come at a more appropriate time. For one, it’s Mental Health Awareness Month and for another (gestures wildly at universe). From 10 am to 3 pm tomorrow (May 7), The LifeLink hosts a mental health and well-being festival on the Plaza, which will include live music, art activities, presentations and more. Because it’s Mental Health Awareness Month, “it’s a time for us to ask, ‘how am I taking care of myself?’” clinical therapist and event coordinator Elizabeth Carovillano tells SFR, adding, “because our individual health impacts our overall community health and we want to provide and share resources you might need at one point or another and [link] our community together.” Those resources will include 32 information booths from a wide variety of organizations and providers. Activities will include a dance class, a large art-making area, sound baths and more. Española Humane also will have an adoption event during the festival. “It’s well-documented that pets help ease stress, but you don’t need a doctor to tell you that,” Española Humane Executive Director Bridget Lindquist said in a statement. “All you have to do is take a look or cuddle one of our adoptable dogs or cats.”

Hang on

While the fire critical weather starts tomorrow, today doesn’t look too pleasant either. The National Weather Service forecasts areas of smoke after noon, sunny, with a high near 82 degrees. A north wind 5 to 10 mph will become west 15 to 20 mph in the afternoon and could gust as high as 30 mph. Temps in Santa Fe will stay in the 80s all weekend with gusting wind.

Thanks for reading! The Word is going to hide out from the wind, catch up on Russian Doll and read this New Yorker profile of Natasha Lyonne. She is not going to download a new social media app under any circumstances.

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