Morning Word

Helicopter Crash Kills Four NM First Responders

Mayor Webber calls for “empathy” in addressing Santa Fe Homelessness

Helicopter crash kills four NM first responders

Officials say a multi-faceted, multi-agency investigation is underway to determine the cause of a fatal crash Saturday night that killed four Bernalillo County first responders: Undersheriff Larry Koren, Lt. Fred Beers, Deputy Michael Levison and Bernalillo County Fire and Rescue Specialist Matthew King. The BSCO helicopter crashed at approximately 7:20 pm Saturday night just outside of Las Vegas where its crew had been helping with a wildfire in the area, providing bucket drops and other air logistics. “I am heartbroken by the tragic loss of four New Mexicans while in the line of duty,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “These were four dedicated public servants who were doing what so many of our first responders do day in and day out: working tirelessly to serve and protect their fellow New Mexicans.” The governor’s office said state resources will be “fully available to assist the investigation.” The Albuquerque Journal reports New Mexico police and firefighters lined Interstate 25 yesterday afternoon “to pay tribute to the four first responders as their bodies were escorted” to the Office of the Medical Investigator in Albuquerque—including the Santa Fe County Fire Department. “Our hearts are broke by the tragic and distressing news that we lost four of the state’s finest public servants, killed in the line of duty,” New Mexico Department of Public Safety Secretary Jason Bowie said in a statement. “It’s a sacrifice no one should have to make.”

SF Mayor calls for “empathy” over city’s homelessness problems

Santa Fe has 192 chronically homeless households and 22 chronically homeless veterans, according to Mayor Alan Webber, whose Sunday “weekend reflections” email focused on the issue in response to news reports about homeless encampments both here and in Albuquerque. In Santa Fe, Webber writes, “we need to talk about what is happening with people in Santa Fe who are experiencing homelessness. We need to be clear about what we’ve been doing to address this issue, where we can do better, and where we go from here.” Webber reiterated the importance of starting with a “by-name-list” that identifies each person in the community who is experiencing homelessness. The city has been working on such a list for the last three years, he says, as part of the S3 Housing Initiative. “Outreach has shown that the people who are homeless in Santa Fe are overwhelmingly from Santa Fe,” Webber says. “These are our friends and neighbors, former students and co-workers who have had their lives go sideways and are now struggling to find a place to live. Overwhelmingly, they tell us that if there were a safe, secure, and stable place where they could live, they’d welcome the opportunity to be housed.” To that end, he notes, the city has worked on converting hotels into housing and says it plans to hold a community meeting soon to receive feedback on a proposal to create a sanctioned camping site potentially on the Midtown campus. Meanwhile, the mayor writes, “Our residents and businesses who bear the brunt of having homeless people live in their backyards or in their parking lots or in their doorways need and deserve every bit as much consideration and compassion as the people who are experiencing homelessness. This is a ‘people problem’ and all of us can and should demonstrate our empathy and compassion for everyone who is touched by homelessness.”

NM submits EV plans to feds

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Friday announced the state had submitted its plan to the US Department of Transportation to use $38 million in federal funding to expand the state’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure. New Mexico intends to have electric vehicle chargers at least every 50 miles along the interstates and use the fastest available charges: “Motorists will be able to fully charge their EVs in 30-45 minutes at an average cost of about $20, far less than the cost of a full tank of gas,” a news release from the governor’s office says. “The state estimates around 20 additional stations will need to be built to reach the federal goal. The state will use any remaining funding to continue to build up the state’s rural EV infrastructure outside of interstate corridors.” The governor and state Legislature also appropriated $10 million of American Rescue Plan Act funds in the December 2021 special session for EV charging stations around the state, with the governor announcing the first use of those funds last week in Socorro. Santa Fe Public Schools, meanwhile, announced last week it will be purchasing three electric school buses with about $1.1 million the district received in its third round of Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Settlement funding.

COVID-19 by the numbers

Reported July 15

New cases: 1,723; 577,583 total cases

Deaths: 21; Santa Fe County had 325 total deaths; there have been 8,056 total fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 181. Patients on ventilators: 15.

Case rates: According to the state health department’s most recent report on geographical trends, for the seven-day period of July 4-10, San Juan County had the highest daily case rate per 100,000 population: 63.4, followed by McKinley County at 60.9 and Lincoln County at 59.7; Santa Fe County’s case rate was 42.4, down from 49.4 last week and within the second highest category of case rates—red—in that report.

Community levels: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s weekly community levels report, which uses case rates along with two hospital metrics in combination for its framework, for the seven-day period of July 7-13, seven counties—down from 11 last week—have “red” or high levels. After two weeks of high levels, Santa Fe County has decreased to “yellow” or medium levels. Nine counties have “green” or low levels and the rest are medium. The CDC’s recommendations include indoor masking for people living in counties with high community levels. The remainder of its recommendations can be found here.

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. Vaccines for children: Parents of children ages 6 months to 5 years can now schedule appointments for vaccinations at

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

Listen up

The US Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade has already impacted the governor’s race in New Mexico. But will it drive turnout? That’s one question The Line opinion panel tackles in the most recent episode of New Mexico PBS’ program NM In Focus. This week’s panel includes: Merritt Allen from Vox Optima Public Relations; lawyer Sophie Martin; and public health consultant Michael Bird.

Hot bonding

Texas Monthly’s Taco Editor and James Beard Award-winning columnist José R. Ralat writes about his visit last year to New Mexico State University’s Chile Pepper Institute with his teenage son in “On Salsa, Dragons, and Fatherhood.” His son’s “love of all things chiles” began a decade ago with the children’s book Dragons Love Tacos and has persisted: “A generation of children and their parents have found humor and reflections of themselves in the picture book,” Ralat writes. “It was a runaway hit that has been the subject of library reading series and children’s theater productions. Many children have fixated on the salsa. My son, nicknamed Taquito, is among them, and he’s collected his own spicy sauces over the years.” As such, the pair engage in Instagram Live tasting sessions hosted on Ralat’s @tacotrail account, which Taquito calls the Ring of Fire series. At the Chile Pepper Institute, father and son visited the gift shop where they discovered “a treasure trove of chile-related books, posters, seed packets, tchotchkes, and salsas.” When the duo returned from Las Cruces with a four-pack of hot sauces that contained “hefty servings of jolokia and scorpion chiles, two of the hottest in the world,” Taquito wanted to conduct a Ring of Fire tasting with them. His dad agreed “trepidatiously.” You can check that out here and also watch the Ring of Fire tasting for Totally Mild Salsa, which was produced for the 10th anniversary of Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri.

Looking ahead

On the one hand, fall is more than two months away. On the other hand, time no longer has any meaning. Also: Vacations require planning. Somewhere in the mix between existential despair and aspirational fashion, digital lifestyle brand PureWow recommends both Albuquerque and Santa Fe on its list of The Best Fall Vacations in the US. Albuquerque, PureWow says, is a must-visit location in the autumn due to chile roasting season, plus “the fall festivals in Albuquerque are giving major Gilmore Girls vibes—notably, the largest hot air balloon festival in the world, where thousands of balloons of all shapes and sizes lift into flight for all to watch.” (For the record: The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta takes place Oct. 1-9 and if any New Mexico locale has Gilmore Girls vibes” it would have to be Madrid). Santa Fe, the story adds, also has its share of fall festivals (Wine & Chile Fiesta Sept. 21-25, for instance and the Indigenous Peoples’ Day Weekend Celebration in October). Plus: “The weather is great and there are activities for everyone to enjoy, whether you’re a foodie, an art-lover, an outdoor adventurer or you just want to spend a weekend relaxing.”

Heat wave

Today will be hot, according to the National Weather Service, and sunny with a high near 93 degrees and east wind 5 to 10 mph becoming west in the afternoon. No chance of rain today; teensy chance for showers tomorrow. NWS Albuquerque reports record heat is on the way for at least the next few days around the state and offers up these tips for discerning the difference between heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Much of the US will experience dangerous levels of heat today; Europe is also experiencing a record-breaking heat wave, with Britain declaring a national emergency.

Thanks for reading! The Word is digging these Tod Papageorge photographs of late ‘70s and early ‘80s Los Angeles beachgoers and wishes she was on the beach in the late 1970s right now (here’s the backstory on the exhibition).

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