Morning Word

Officials Warn Residents Not to Impede Firefighters, Law Enforcement Working Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire

Prosecutors rest their case in Montoya murder trial

Hermits Peak Fire active but minimal growth

Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire managers yesterday said during last night’s update while the fire had been very active on Thursday, it hadn’t grown significantly. As of this morning, it stood at 270,447 acres, with 30% containment and more than 1,800 personnel on the fire. Some communities in the southern portion have been able to start returning home, while fire managers anticipate the fire to continue moving north. Last night’s update also included a heavy emphasis on receiving fire information from the experts—not social media—and working with, not against, fire and law enforcement personnel. Mora County Under Sheriff Americk Padilla and Mora County Commissioner Frank Maestas both referenced constituents’ anger and frustration over the fire—which began as a prescribed burn. Maestas cautioned: “Do not impede the firefighters; do not impede law enforcement,” saying he had been told by a state official, “If there’s any sort of violence, all services will be pulled…Please, take heed,” Maestas said. “These folks didn’t cause this fire.” Though New Mexico will remain very dry and hot over the weekend, fire managers expect a few days reprieve from high gusting winds and no red flag days. The Cerro Pelado Fire in the Jemez as of last reporting was at 43,887 acres acres and 19% containment.

State: Leave wildlife fleeing fires alone

The Department of Game and Fish yesterday issued a news release asking the public to be mindful of wildlife displaced by fires. The release notes it is “normal” to see wildlife in areas they don’t typically appear as they flee wildfire. “Wildlife is incredibly resilient to fire, but need space to find new habitat while the fire is burning,” the release notes, and says people don’t need to report wildlife in unusual locations, but if they see injured wildlife to report those through the state police’s non-emergency number: (505) 841-9256. Game and Fish also recommends to not feed, approach or handle wildlife. “We know that folks want to help in any way they can during this emergency, including helping animals that have been affected,” Assistant Chief of Wildlife Elise Goldstein said in a statement. “The Department strongly encourages people not to feed and water wildlife. It may seem like you are helping them, but this can encourage them to start relying on humans for these resources. If they do not find these resources in town, they tend to move to a more natural environment.”

In other wildfire news yesterday, a bipartisan group of senators, including US Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, has sent a request to top officials in the Biden administration—including Interior Secretary Deb Haaland—asking them to establish a special pay rate for federal wildland firefighters to prevent staffing shortages as wildfires continue to spread in New Mexico and throughout the West. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office announced yesterday the state has set up six sites to provide hot meals for people impacted by wildfires—no questions asked—in Eagle Nest, Peñasco, Raton, Red River and Taos providing lunch and dinner. According to a news release, Mercy Chefs, a national disaster relief and humanitarian aid organization that serves chef-prepared meals in emergencies and natural disasters, will provide meals to supplement and enhance local efforts.

Prosecutors wrap up Montoya evidence, defense begins

Prosecutors in Estevan Montoya’s murder trial rested their case yesterday. They concluded with evidence countering defense attorneys’ contention Montoya started handling firearms just weeks before the shooting of Fedonta “JB” White in response to the death of his friend Ivan Perez. Rather, prosecutors introduced Facebook messages in which Montoya discussed trading and selling firearms with others months before Perez was killed, including his attempt to sell a .380 caliber handgun he called a “pocket rocket.” Montoya’s defense attorneys Dan Marlowe and Ben Ortega are scheduled to begin their case this morning. Yesterday, Judge Glenn T. Ellington ruled Lawrence Renner will be allowed as an expert witness about the path of the bullet, but not the general distance between Montoya and White when the gun was fired. Defense Attorney Ben Ortega will serve as the model for Renner’s testimony and will stand on a stool in order to approximate White’s 6′4″ height. Montoya’s lawyers have not revealed whether Montoya will testify on his own behalf.

COVID-19 by the numbers

Reported May 12:

New cases: 503 (that’s about a 42% increase over the day prior); 525,751 total cases

Case rate: According to the weekly geographic trends report from the state health department, Santa Fe County has a case rate per 100,000 for the seven-day period of May 2-8 at 21.2, the third highest in the state, following De Baca (38.8) and Los Alamos (29.5). According to 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—all of New Mexico’s counties currently have “green”—aka low—levels, except for De Baca and Los Alamos counties, which are yellow, or medium. The CDC updates its community levels on Thursdays.

Deaths: six; At last count, Santa Fe County had 286 total deaths (four more than the day prior); there have been 7,600 total fatalities statewide. Hospitalizations: 68; Patients on ventilators: six

Resources: Vaccine registration; Booster registration Free at-home rapid antigen tests; Self-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

Lest we forget, election season is underway for the June 7 primary. At 2 pm, Saturday, May 14, the Santa Fe County Democratic Party is hosting a virtual forum via Zoom for the three candidates in the Santa Fe County Commission District 3 race: Camilla Bustamante, incumbent Rudy Garcia and Chris Rivera. SFR spoke with candidates in both District 3 and District 1, both lively races that will be decided by the primary. You can peruse SFR’s endorsements here and the League of Women Voters of Santa Fe County Guide here.

Caring for women on Texas’ border

The Washington Post profiles Franz Theard, 73, who runs the Women’s Reproductive Clinic of New Mexico in Santa Teresa, less than a mile from the Texas border, providing medical abortions and “skirting Texas law by a trick of New Mexico geography.” After Texas enacted some of the country’s most stringent abortion restrictions, Theard’s clinic began to receive an “influx” of patients from East Texas. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, he could become one of the only abortion providers in the western US. Theard has been encouraging women to avoid traveling to states with mandatory waiting periods for abortion such as Oklahoma, Louisiana, Kansas or Arkansas. “Thank God we’re in New Mexico,” he says, noting that the state has some of the country’s most liberal laws for women seeking abortions, and he’s opened his clinic on weekends. He tells the Post he doesn’t need the money. He offers incentives: a flat-fee procedure that includes the state tax for the procedure; free abortions on International Women’s Day and Armed Forces Day; fuel rebates. A Haitian American, Theard began performing abortions in 1973; he stopped doing surgical abortions last year after he had COVID-19, and now only administers medical abortions. “It feels satisfying to be able to help people who are desperate—and they are desperate—to get something done,” he tells the Post. “And I can’t understand why the other OB/GYNs don’t feel the same way. It’s part of what we do. I think abortion is woman’s care.”

Wild about the Gila

The weekend beckons and taking a little time to read tributes to New Mexico’s wilderness sounds just about right as we witness the devastation climate change and fire are wreaking on its beautiful landscape. SFR this week spotlights First & Wildest: The Gila Wilderness at 100, a new collection of essays from Torrey House Press, partially funded by WildEarth Guardians, which captures a century of protection for 500,000 acres and the beings within them in southwestern New Mexico. Excerpts in this week’s paper include writing by scientist and nuevomexicano Leeanna T. Torres; Santa Fe birder and writer Renata Golden; US Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM; and Gabe Vasquez, a conservation activist and former Las Cruces city councilor who is running for Congress. Other writers in the anthology include Aldo Leopold, Pam Houston and Beto O’Rourke, to name a few. SFR also talks with book editor Elizabeth Hightower Allen about the anthology.

Hot, smoky

The National Weather Service forecasts Santa Fe will see areas of smoke after 3 pm today. Otherwise, it will be sunny with a high near 80 degrees and north wind 10 to 15 mph becoming west in the morning. Saturday and Sunday’s forecasts also include areas of smoke; light wind; and high temps of 86 and 88 degrees, respectively.

Thanks for reading! For whatever reason, The Word has been listening to “Price of Blue” by Flock of Dimes on repeat for the better part of the week and searching out different versions—she particularly likes this acoustic one (starts at 4:17) and this non-acoustic one.

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