Morning Word

Forest Service Reports 100% Containment for Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire

City of Santa Fe hires finance director with audit experience

FS: Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire 100% contained

In the more than four months since it began, the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire has burned 341,735 acres and become the largest wildfire in New Mexico’s history. Santa Fe National Forest officials announced yesterday after a month of monitoring the fire perimeter, the fire has now been 100% contained—aided by strong monsoon weather. “Fire mangers have high confidence there are no remaining heat sources and no additional growth will occur,” a news release states. Wildfire personnel will continue to manage the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon as a wildfire; Southwest Area Incident Management Team 4, led by Incident Commander Aaron Hulburd, took command yesterday. Containment precedes declaring a fire “out,” a news release explains. Suppression repair, burned area emergency response, flooding mitigation and monitoring activities remain ongoing. SFNF also announced on Friday SWIMT bilingual public information officers will now be stationed daily—except when flooding makes traveling unsafe—at the Mora Volunteer Fire Department to help community members fill out Suppression Repair Forms and ensure they are entered in the queue. Both the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon fires began as the result of prescribed burns, on April 6 and April 19, respectively.

City hires new finance director

On Saturday, the City of Santa Fe announced it has found a new finance director: Emily Oster, who has served as deputy secretary of the New Mexico Taxation & Revenue Department since early 2019, will begin her new position at the city Sept. 6. Prior to working for Tax & Rev, Oster worked as the chief financial officer for the New Mexico Law Offices of the Public Defender, and as the CFO and director of compliance & quality control at the Office of the New Mexico State Auditor. Last April, State Auditor Brian Colón announced the office would be “intervening” in the city’s finances due to “worsening fiscal mismanagement.” The city has had several years of late audits and recently agreed to pay up to $3 million to hire the accounting firm that withdrew from its 2021 audit to begin a new contract for 2022 audit prep. According to a city news release, Oster’s duties at the state auditor’s office included “maintaining up-to-date quality control policies and procedures” for the office; performing quality control reviews of the office’s audits; and writing administrative rules governing the conduct of audits. She is a certified public accountant, certified chief procurement officer and holds a master of accounting degree. City Manager John Blair said in a statement the city “is lucky to have found [Oster], who joins our team with such significant financial experience and expertise. I’m confident she’s the right person to modernize our finance department and bring much-needed stability to our city’s finances.” Oster, in a statement, described herself as “excited” about the new position. Moreover: “I fully appreciate and embrace the need for the department to file audits in a timely fashion, to craft responsible budgets that match city priorities and resources, and to provide excellent customer service to the department’s broad stakeholder base.”

School year starts amid chronic absences

Santa Fe Public Schools students and teachers began the new academic year last week and won’t be facing 10 extra days. Given the persistent absentee issues facing the district, administrators decided to turn down extra state money and leave the school calendar alone. According to attendance data, in 2020-21, more than a third of students were chronically absent. In 2021-22, more than 50% missed too many days. The state’s Attendance for Success Act, which went into effect in 2020, defines chronic absenteeism as missing 10% of school days. SFPS is not alone. Hedy Chang, director of the national organization Attendance Works, tells the New York Times chronic absences “skyrocketed” during the pandemic, and described the issue as a “full-scale crisis” in a news release last spring. SFPS Superintendent Hilario “Larry” Chavez tells SFR adding more days to the school year at this point would be counterproductive. “When you haven’t addressed the health of staff and students and you haven’t addressed the absenteeism, you take a chance of widening the achievement gap,” he says. Instead, the district intends to increase engagement with families to counter absenteeism and continue to expand a program for high school students that addresses underlying issues that contribute to absenteeism, such as housing insecurity.

COVID-19 by the numbers

Reported Aug. 19

New cases: 685; 605,490 total cases

Deaths: five; Santa Fe County has had 336 total deaths; there have been 8,347 fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 145. Patients on ventilators: 12

Case rates: According to the state health department’s most recent report on geographical trends for the seven-day period of Aug. 8-14, Santa Fe County’s case rate continues to decline and was at 26.3, compared with 34 the prior week. The state recorded 4,500 total cases statewide—based on reported cases—over the seven-day period, a nearly 15% decrease from the previous week.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent update for COVID-19 “community levels,” Santa Fe County has green, or low levels. The state map, which updates each Thursday for the prior seven-day period, uses a framework that combines case rates with hospital metrics. Santa Fe is now one of 13 counties with green or low levels and only four—down from 11 last week—have “red” or high levels. The community levels site has accompanying recommendations at the bottom of the page. The CDC also provides a quarantine and isolation calculator.

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 Santa Fe Opera’s final week has arrived, with limited availability for the final showings of this season’s five productions. M. Butterfly, this season’s world premiere, holds its last production Aug. 24. Last weekend, Colores, on New Mexico PBS, aired a special “behind the scenes” episode in which librettist David Henry Hwang, composer Huang Ruo and conductor Carolyn Kuan discussed their inspirations and creative processes in bringing M.Butterfly to life. You can also catch the live broadcast of M.Butterfly at 6 pm, Aug. 29 on 95.5 FM (or Tonight, at 6 pm, listen on the station to the live broadcast of this season’s Tristan und Isolde, conducted by James Gaffigan, who is the subject of this recent New York Times story.

Year of the dragon

Game of Thrones’ spinoff House of the Dragon premiered last night and arrived with no shortage of coverage of its creator, Santa Fe resident George RR Martin. The Wall Street Journal writes, “HBO is betting on the author as a guiding force” for the new series’ success. In turn, Martin tells WSJ he thinks he has “more influence now than I did on the original show.” That influenced included “handpicking” Executive Producer Ryan Condal to write the series. “In terms of doing it right and making sure [successor shows] feel authentic to Game of Thrones, you can’t do better than the person who invented the world,” Casey Bloys, chief content officer of HBO and HBO Max, tells WSJ. Neither Bloys nor Martin would confirm to WSJ their financial agreement (reportedly a five-year, eight-figure contract). Martin also spoke with Vanity Fair magazine about the new series, and about the constant speculation regarding when he will finish writing the Song of Ice and Fire books: “I’m making progress, but I’ve given up on any hope of predicting the end,” he tells VF. “Every time I do, I don’t make it and everybody gets mad at me, and there’s no sense. It’ll be done when it’s done. Hopefully, COVID won’t kill me, so we won’t have that issue. I do find it a little grisly, people speculating online about what’s going to happen to the rest of the books when I die. I don’t like to speculate about that. I don’t feel close to dying.” As for the new show—a prequel to Game of Thrones—needless to say, expectations are high, with a Washington Post op-ed declaring: “House of the Dragon offers Americans a new shot at a common culture.”

Pedal to the metal

Phoenix Art Museum’s exhibition Desert Rider (through Sept. 18) “explores the sociopolitical realities and imaginative interpretations of automotive and skateboarding subcultures…focusing almost exclusively on Latinx and Indigenous perspectives that have defined the identity of the Southwest.” Connections to New Mexico include the show’s name, inspired by the 1969 film Easy Rider, filmed partly in New Mexico. The show also includes work by Cuban-born documentary photographer Carlotta Boettcher, whose portfolio showcases ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s classic American automobiles and trucks that mysteriously came to rest in Northern New Mexico’s pristine desert landscape.” Fine art photographer Cara Romero (Chemehuevi), who maintains a studio in Santa Fe, also has work in the show.

Fall is coming

The National Weather Service forecasts a 60% chance for rain today in Santa Fe after noon on an otherwise partly sunny day with a high temperature near 75 degrees. Chances for rain tonight drop to 50% this evening and continue all week long. Keep an eye out for those flood warnings and remember to always avoid flash flood waters.

Thanks for reading! The Word was intrigued by this New Yorker story about how electric vehicles will change the way cities sound.

Letters to the Editor

Mail letters to PO Box 4910 Santa Fe, NM 87502 or email them to editor[at] Letters (no more than 200 words) should refer to specific articles in the Reporter. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.

We also welcome you to follow SFR on social media (on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and comment there. You can also email specific staff members from our contact page.