Morning Word

New Command, Evacuations on Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire

NM officials ask feds for more help on wildfires

New command, evacuations on Hermits Peak

New fire managers came on board over the weekend for the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire, with the Type 1 Southwest Incident Management Team 1 returning to relieve Team 2. Fire managers have now zoned the fire into three areas: central, south and zone, with Southwest Area Type 1 Incident Management Team in the central zone; Southwest Area Type 2 Incident Management Team in the south zone; and California Type 1 Incident Management Team 2 in the north zone. In addition, the Facebook page for official fire information has changed. At their final online community meeting Saturday night, Team 2 fire managers said they were looking forward to resting and seeing their families, but also spoke emotionally about leaving New Mexico. “When we come into these communities and fight fire, we become part of the community, the community becomes part of us,” Incident Commander Dave Bales said at his outgoing meeting Saturday night; that meeting also featured a video documenting firefighters time on the blaze since assuming command May 2.

At yesterday evening’s online community meeting, incoming fire managers reviewed some of the challenges they faced yesterday holding containment lines on its southwest side, which lead to new evacuations yesterday for Bull Canyon, Cow Creek and Upper and Lower Colonias in western San Miguel County. Later last night, evacuations alert were issued for Taos County, including “go” or mandatory evacuation status for Angostura, Rock Wall, Las Mochas and Sipapu. Updated: As of this morning, Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire has grown to 298,060 acres and 27% containment. As of this morning’s update, the Cerro Pelado Fire in the Jemez was at 45,605 acres acres and 40% containment.

NM officials press feds for more help

Both Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the state’s congressional delegation are urging the federal government to up its financial fire assistance for New Mexico. The governor wrote President Joe Biden on Friday requesting the feds cover 100% of disaster costs: “New Mexico is utilizing every available asset to combat the advancing fires,” the letter reads. “However, the ever-increasing costs to save lives and protect New Mexicans’ homes, property, and heritage as these fires continue exceeds the capability of the state. New Mexico’s response to these devastating fires warrants the full resources and support of the federal government.” The congressional delegation, on Saturday, wrote Biden, asking him to approve Lujan Grisham’s request: “Given the severity and life and death nature of this crisis, we urge you to act without delay,” the letter says. “It is imperative that the federal government provides full support to New Mexican communities to protect and recover from the ongoing wildfire devastation.”

State addresses baby formula shortage

The national shortage on baby formula is also impacting New Mexico families. According to the Associated Press, 40% of large retail stores are out of stock, a situation fueled by supply chain shortages that began during the COVID-19 pandemic, exacerbated by a recall in February. In a news release Friday, New Mexico’s Health and Early Childhood Education & Care departments said the state is working with families to help them locate formula, including the 31,000 participants in the health department’s Women, Infants and Children program. WIC participants who are having trouble finding formula should contact their local WIC office. People experiencing formula shortages should report the details. The ECECD also provides formula through its Child and Adult Food program. “ECECD continues to fund the purchase of high quality, nutritious infant formula for hundreds of child care homes and centers throughout the state,” ECECD Cabinet Secretary Elizabeth Groginsky said in a statement. “Although child care providers have not reported difficulty maintaining adequate supplies of formula for babies in their care, we are monitoring the situation closely to ensure that infants in child care throughout the state continue to receive the formula they need at no cost to their families.”

COVID-19 by the numbers

Reported May 13:

New cases: 388; 526,137 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: seven; At last count, Santa Fe County had 287 total deaths; there have been 7,607 total fatalities statewide. Hospitalizations: 50; Patients on ventilators: seven

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

Wind. Wildfire. Climate anxiety. If these topics resonate, chances are you live in New Mexico right now. The most recent episode of NMPBS’ New Mexico In Focus program tackles them all. Panelists discuss the federal push to expand benefits for wildland firefighters, along with the topic of prescribed burns. As for prescribed burns, SFR recently interviewed LANL scientist Adam Atchley on the lab’s work at creating better models for prescribed burns—with the hope that doing so will help curtail situations such as the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire, but Atchley says current models don’t account for climate change. Speaking of which, correspondent Laura Paskus talks to Sarah Jaquette Ray, author of A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety: How to Keep Your Cool on a Warming Planet about “climate anxiety” in a recent Our Land segment.

Saving trees

The Washington Post highlights the efforts of New Mexico State University and state employees to save seeds and young trees imperiled by the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire as it encroached upon NMSU’s John T. Harrington Forestry Research Center in Mora, New Mexico’s sole facility for growing tree seedlings and one of the Southwest’s only seed banks. “This is a fire where both our current and future forests are threatened,” Collin Haffey, New Mexico’s forest and watershed health coordinator and statewide leader for reforestation strategy, tells the Post. “The nursery in Mora and the tree seedlings are a critical resource that we’ll need to start recovering from these fires.” Doing so took four trucks, three trailers and two trips into an evacuated area. At first the seed bank containing more than 3 million seeds went to nursery manager Tammy Parsons’ garage, to be kept in freezers. But when the fire turned toward Parsons’ Las Vegas home, Leslie Edgar, associate dean and director of the agricultural experiment station with New Mexico State University, drove the seed bank to a university facility near Albuquerque. Owen Burney, the research center’s supervisor, eventually was able to return to gather 30,000 more seedlings, which then went to an empty state forestry greenhouse in Santa Fe. The seedlings will play a key role in both research and key reforestation.

Sampling Santa Fe

Minnesota’s Star Tribune touts a three-day trip to Santa Fe, where “travelers can find a little bit of everything.” The trip included forays to historic churches, museums, hikes and soaks—an approach writer Stacy Brooks likens to her dinner strategy in Santa Fe: the vegetarian combo platter, about which she writes: “After all, why settle for just one entree when you can have a refried bean burrito, a cheese enchilada and a zucchini green chile tamale?” Indeed. Brooks’ Santa Fe combo platter includes visits to San Miguel Chapel; New Mexico Museum of Art and IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts; Bandelier National Monument (this trip clearly occurred prior to Bandelier’s fire-related closure); and Ojo Caliente to soak. Not sure where the writer ordered her vegetarian combo platter, but she ends her trip with drinks at Santa Fe Spirits where, in the spirit of sampling, she tried both “a whiskey-forward drink with chile” and “a dessert cocktail topped with horchata-flavored cream.”

Smokin’ hot

The National Weather Service forecasts areas of smoke before noon for Santa Fe today, on an otherwise mostly sunny Monday with a high temperature near 86 degrees and southeast wind 15 to 20 mph becoming southwest in the afternoon. Forecasters are keeping an eye out for dry lightning storms and their potential impacts on the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire. If you happened to miss the fire’s pyrocumulus columns over the weekend, here’s a good shot.

Thanks for reading! The Word also would have voted for the Ukrainian rap and folk band Kalush Orchestra to win the Eurovision Song Contest over the weekend, had she been in a position to vote for such a thing (the back story is also pleasantly diverting).

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