Morning Word

Fire Managers Report Progress Yesterday Ahead of Today’s Critical Fire Weather

The Santa Fe Literary Festival begins!

Slow growth on Hermits Peak ahead of today’s fire danger

Fire managers sounded optimistic, if a bit surprised, during last night’s community update on the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon, with successes yesterday despite challenging winds. “Across the entire fire area, things are looking really favorable, a lot better than we had expected it to look,” Southwest Incident Team Management Team 1 Incident Commander Carl Schwope said, noting crews “still have tomorrow to get through,” with “another big wind event coming in,” but as of last night, “things are looking really good.” Specifically, Jayson Coil, operations section chief, detailed crews’ success at squashing spot fires and keeping the fire south of NM 518 in the Angostura area without air support due to the high winds. As of this morning, the fire still stands at 303,341 acres, but is now 40% contained. Today, however, will be a challenging day, fire behavior analyst Stewart Turner said, “probably bigger than what we saw” yesterday, and potentially one of the six top days in terms of fire growth based on the weather forecast of high winds, high temperatures and low humidity. North of Chacon, he said, would “be an area to watch to see how successful the crews will be in holding that.” Noting crews yesterday “held the road” on NM 518 in a “good old-fashioned fire fight,” he said he anticipated today’s weather would “continue to test their spirits.” The Cerro Pelado Fire in the Jemez Mountains is now 74% contained at 45,605 acres; a new incident management team, the Rocky Mountain Black Team, took over yesterday.

NM delegation introduces fire, water bills

Yesterday, US Sen. Ben Ray Luján, D-NM, along with US Sen. Alex Padilla, D-California, led a coalition of senators, including co-sponsor US Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, in the introduction of the National Wildland Fire Risk Reduction Program Act, to support research and development, data management and other tools to improve US readiness and responsiveness to the increasing threat of wildfire. “The federal science agencies have a crucial role to play in improving how the nation understands, anticipates and responds to wildland fires, but several of these agencies currently have no defined authority or mandate to do so,” Luján said in a statement. Citing the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire, he added: “It is critical that Congress invest in our understanding of and response to this devastating type of natural disaster so that we can increase fire resiliency and protect New Mexicans from these increasingly catastrophic wildfires.” The state’s congressional delegation also announced a package of water legislation yesterday. US Rep. Melanie Stansbury introduced the Water Data Act and Rio Grande Water Security Act, both co-sponsored by fellow US Reps. Teresa Leger Fernández and Yvette Herrell, with a companion bill in the US Senate from Heinrich and Luján.

NM GOP House leaders exempt their staff from Capitol gun ban

New Mexico’s top House Republicans yesterday informed legislative leaders their staff will no longer follow the ban on firearms at the state Capitol enacted last year by the Legislative Council. Both the House speaker or Senate president pro tem can approve exceptions and House Republican legislators already have one for themselves. But in a letter yesterday, House Minority Leader James Townsend of Artesia, House Minority Whip Rod Montoya of Farmington and House Republican Caucus Chair Rebecca Dow of Truth or Consequences say their staffs also can carry weapons, the Albuquerque Journal reports, because they need protection, citing threats of violence in response to the potential overturning by the US Supreme Court of Roe v. Wade. “We would be derelict in our duty, if we didn’t allow legislators and staff to protect themselves from potential harm when such hateful rhetoric is escalating across the nation,” the letter says. House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, responded in a letter saying Capitol staff will continue to enforce the gun ban and House Republicans should contact the state police to convey any threats they have received.

COVID-19 by the numbers

Reported May 19:

New cases: 583; 528,699 total cases

Deaths: 14; At last count, Santa Fe County had 289 total deaths; there have been 7,664 total fatalities statewide. Hospitalizations: 95; Patients on ventilators: 15

Case rates and community levels: According to DOH’s most recent report on COVID-19 geographic trends, for the seven-day period of May 9 through May 15, De Baca County had the highest case rate per 100,000 population: 62.1, followed by Rio Arriba County with 38.4 and Santa Fe County with 34.3. 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—all of New Mexico’s counties remain green, or low, except for Santa Fe, Rio Arriba and Grant counties, which are yellow, for medium.

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

Unsurprisingly, folks have plenty of thoughts at present about forest management. Hear from some of them in the most recent edition of KUNM’s Let’s Talk New Mexico. Guests include: Tom Ribe co-founder of Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics, & EcologyOur Land host and climate change author Laura Paskus; former firefighter Jonathon Golden; Matthew Hurteau, forest ecologist and University of New Mexico biology professor; and Arturo Archuleta, program manager for the New Mexico Land Grant Council.

Hit the books

While one allegedly should not judge a book by its cover (or use cliches to write about a literary festival for that matter), one could probably get away with judging a literary festival by its author roster. In which case, one would stop writing tortured third-person POV sentences and instead go—cliche alert—hog-wild buying tickets for this coming weekend’s Santa Fe Literary FestivalThat roster includes Margaret Atwood, Colson Whitehead, Joy Harjo, Emily St. John Mandel, N. Scott Momaday...and the list goes on in such a way that even an army comprised solely of National Book Award winners would peacefully abide that previous ellipses. The festival, which inaugurates tonight with Pulitzer prize-winning novelist Whitehead and runs through Monday, features not just readings and signings, but literary day tripscommunity events, teas, walks and tequila guzzling tasting. New Mexico residents and students can purchase session tickets at a 50% discount with the code NMRESIDENT or NMSTUDENT. If you’re all about backstory, SFR has the low-down on how this star-studded literary festival came to be.

Mourning the losses in Northern NM

The Guardian spends time in the Las Vegas area talking to people whose lives have been upended by the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire. The story—accompanied by photos of the community—opens with Kathryn Mahan and her husband, Jamie, who built their home in the village of Las Dispensas themselves. Now, all that remains are the concrete blocks they used to make their front steps. The Guardian also spends time at the local evacuation shelter, where people like Ruben Garcia, 85, come to have a hot meal and visit with fellow evacuees as he waits to return home to Rociada, where he lives on 100 acres that has been in his family for multiple generations. His house survived; barns and factory equipment did not. Evacuees and volunteers overlap: Andrew Vigil started volunteering 10 to 12 hours a day after coming in for lunch. He and his wife lost their cabin and Winnebago, and had no insurance. “It helps me to be here,” Vigil tells the Guardian. “I’m used to doing stuff and I want to go forward. I don’t want to go backward because there is nothing left for me to go back to.”

Wind, fire danger day

Today features a red flag warning and wind advisory as the National Weather Service forecasts patchy blowing dust after noon; sunny skies; a high temperature near 83 degrees; and wind: west at 10 to 20 mph increasing to 20 to 30 mph in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 40 mph. Saturday and Sunday cool off a bit with high temperatures of 76 and 72, respectively, and winds in the 15 to 20 mph range.

Thanks for reading! Tim Capello’s scene in The Lost Boys never fails to make The Word laugh (and, yes, she sometimes watches it just for that purpose), but she never thought she might have the chance to see him perform it live in Santa Fe.

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