Morning Word

Officials Report Slow Growth on Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon as Feds Pause Prescribed Burns

Early expanded voting has begun!

Minimal growth on Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire

Fire managers during last night’s community meeting on the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire, reported progress over the weekend, during which time the fire grew less than 7,000 acres; as of this morning, it was 310,270 acres and 40% contained. “Our firefighters have been able to keep this fire in the current footprint for the last three to four days,” Curtis Coots, California Incident Management Team 2 incident commander, said. The majority of the fire activity remains in the western and southern zones. The northwestern prong of the fire—near Angostura—is the “nastiest piece of line left on the fire,” according to Jayson Coil, one of the fire’s operations section chiefs. A cold front late Friday night brought gusty winds to the western perimeter of the fire, resulting in increased activity and raising evacuation statuses among much of the Pecos Valley Corridor, with Upper Pecos River Valley upgraded to mandatory evacuation status, while Pecos village proper now stands at “set.” Officials expect favorable weather this week, with Fire Behavior Analyst Stewart Turner anticipating “at least two really good work days for the firefighters out there, not extreme fire behavior.” Burned Area Emergency Response specialists are currently evaluating Forest Service roads within the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon burned areas for potential threats to the roads from flash flooding, debris flows and the overall infrastructure due to increased erosion. BAER specialists have also started assessment of the lands impacted by the Cerro Pelado Fire, which is 45,605 acres and 85% contained.

US Forest Service pauses prescribed burns for 90 days

On Friday, the US Forest Service announced a 90-day pause on prescribed burns, pending a review. In a statement, US Forest Service Chief Randy Moore said any “lessons learned and any resulting program improvements will be in place prior to resuming prescribed burning.” The announcement followed Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s meeting with federal officials in Washington, DC; in a statement, the governor reiterated the importance of prescribed burns, but said “it is critical federal agencies update and modernize these practices in response to a changing climate…the situation unfolding in New Mexico right now demonstrates without a doubt the grave consequences of neglecting to do so.” (ICYMI, SFR recently reported on new modeling tools developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory specifically aimed at adapting prescribed burns to climate change). NPR reports on concerns about the backlash against prescribed burns emerging in the wake of the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire. “When we see a prescribed burn, as in New Mexico, that escapes and becomes a massive wildfire that threatens communities, that prompts concerns about the safety of these prescribed burns of this very, very important tool,” Rebecca Miller, a scholar with the University of Southern California’s The West on Fire Project, said, adding “the vast, vast, vast majority of prescribed burns are conducted safely, do not escape, and you’ll never hear about them.”

BTW, following last week’s closures of the Santa Fe, Carson and Cibola National Forests, Santa Fe County Growth Management Director Penny Ellis-Green on Friday ordered the closure of several county trails due to extreme fire danger. The closed trails include: Arroyo del la Piedra Open Space; Little Tesuque Creek Open Space; Rio en Medio Open Space; and Talaya Hill Open Space.

Expanded early voting begins

Expanded early voting kicked off Saturday, with seven Santa Fe County locations in addition to the clerk’s office where voters can now cast votes and register to vote in advance of the June 7 primary election. Those locations include the Southside Library and the Santa Fe County Fairgrounds. All the early voting and election-day locations will feature same-day registration and, for the primary, minor party, unregistered and independent voters can utilize same-day registration to vote in one of the three major party’s races (you’ll need ID). The New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office has updated information on the front page of its website for voters impacted or displaced by wildfires, as well as this fact sheet for both evacuees and emergency responders. As of Friday, 18,439 New Mexico voters had requested absentee ballots, including 2,404 in Santa Fe County. A total of 12,778 people have cast ballots statewide thus far; 561 voters have done so in Santa Fe (and one of them was a registered Libertarian). Statewide, 378 voters have utilized same-day registration, 16 of them in Santa Fe County. As of the end of April, the state had more than 1.3 million registered voters, with 44% registered as Democrats; 30.9% as Republicans; about 1% Libertarians; and 22.6% unaffiliated. In Santa Fe County, those percentages are 63.1%, 15%, 0.9% and 20.1%. While many local races will be decided by the primary (see SFR’s election guide for the low-down), several contests at the top of the ballot will set the stage for the general election, such as the Republican primary for governor. According to a new Albuquerque Journal poll, Mark Ronchetti looks poised to win that race and face off with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham come November.

COVID-19 by the numbers

Reported May 20:

New cases: 636; 529,336 total cases

Deaths: 11; At last count, Santa Fe County had 290 total deaths; there have been 7,675 total fatalities statewide. Hospitalizations: 75; Patients on ventilators: 10

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.

Vaccines: On Friday, the state health department issued recommendations for single booster doses for children aged 5 through 11 years, at least five months after completion of a primary series with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, the only vaccine currently approved for this age group. Children ages 5 through 11 who are moderately or severely immunocompromised should receive a booster dose at least three months after completion of a three-dose primary series: a first dose followed three weeks later by a second dose and then four weeks later by a third dose.The booster recommendations follow the US Food and Drug Administration’s authorization last week.

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

For those without time to tune in to daily updates on the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire, take heart: Steve Bassett, director of planning and spatial analysis with The Nature Conservancy, has been creating and posting perimeter maps each morning to show the progression of the fire, and its growth. New Mexico PBS Our Land host Laura Paskus talked with Bassett on Friday about his wildfire mapping, which uses public data from the US Forest Service.

Grounded in history

The UK-based Creative Boom website talks with photographer Amanda Rowan, whose show, “Place Setting,” opened Friday at the Acequia Madre House in Santa Fe. Rowan created the show during her fellowship at the Women’s International Study Center at Acequia Madre House in April 2021. As described, she “examined, interpreted and took inspiration from the extensive archive of personal artifacts of Eva Scott Fényes, Leonora S.M. Curtin and Leonora F.C. Paloheimo,” three women who lived in the Acequia Madre House in the late 1800s. The resulting work, which includes “recreated elaborate dinner parties from archival recipe books,” explores the “surrealist narrative of domestic labor as well as themes of property and independence linked to the trappings of class and gender.” Rowan tells Creative Boom she was inspired by Fényes’ “tenacity,”—she left New York in the late 1800s to purchase land in Santa Fe—but drawn into her story by the way Fényes “cultivated artists throughout her life. She created a place where independent thinkers, artists of all media, and especially indigenous craftspeople could be in conversation about expression.” Rowan says the work also is “inherently grounded in the southwest, and I was greatly inspired by the visual iconography of the Virgin Mary throughout Santa Fe.”

Tasting Santa Fe

Tourism Santa Fe hosted Travel Awaits writer Wendy Lee for a trip resulting in a story describing “six amazing restaurants to get a true taste of Santa Fe.” Lee approached her task with some degree of trepidation, writing: “I expected to love the art, architecture, and history of Santa Fe, and I certainly did. But I wasn’t sure how much I’d like the food. I had only visited once before, when I was in college, and my memories of the food were mixed.” Fortunately for all, when she returned earlier this year, Lee “discovered a city with a distinct regional cuisine and dozens of highly rated restaurants. When you add in the city’s passion for good cocktails, most notably margaritas, you have a dining experience like no other in the US.” The magazine, which delivers stories “by the 50+ traveler, for the 50+ traveler,” recommends visitors eat at The Shed, Cowgirl, Luminaria at the Inn at Loretto, Tia Sophia’s, Plaza Cafe Downtown and The Compound. Lee includes “pro tips” for eating at each restaurant, and the story incorporates a Google map so you can find them. It also includes a photograph of The Cowgirl’s ice-cream baked potato (not the most photogenic of desserts to be honest, but definitely delicious). Travel Awaits’ readers also picked Santa Fe as their number one favorite among 12 US cities to visit (beating out Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which came in second place), describing it as “relatively remote” compared to the other cities on the list, but noting its remoteness is “ultimately what makes it such a charming and exciting city to visit, as it was able to evolve independently from other urban areas around the country.”

Fingers crossed for rain

Today should be mostly cloudy with a high near 74 degrees and southeast wind 5 to 10 mph becoming west 15 to 20 mph in the morning. The National Weather Service also forecasts isolated showers and thunderstorms between 9 pm and midnight, with a 20% chance of precipitation.

Thanks for reading! The Word hopes the looks featured at the recent Dior Men’s fashion show in Venice Beach catch on in Santa Fe (especially the crystal buzz cuts).

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