Morning Word

Ruidoso Residents Return Home in Fire’s Aftermath

Santa Fe County Sheriff seeks information on remains found in Las Campanas

Morning Word

Fire & rain

Full-time Ruidoso residents were allowed to return home yesterday, amid warnings that their homes might lack gas, electricity and water, and air quality might be poor due to ash and smoke from the South Fork and Salt fires. Be prepared for the possibility that your home may be without gas, electricity, and water. Second-home owners and tourists will be allowed in at a later date, officials said. State police also issued a warning to returning residents that they might encounter residents who had not made it out of the fire, which began June 17 and, as of press time, had burned 17,551 and 7,816 acres, respectively, with 37% and 7% containment. The fire has been reduced to smoldering, officials say, after widespread weekend precipitation “caused localized flooding and limited firefighter access.” The FBI over the weekend issued a $10,000 reward for any information “leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible.” The fire killed at least two people, with Ruidoso Village Mayor Lynn Crawford estimating 29 remain missing, the Associated Press reports.

The weekend rain also caused widespread flooding and temporary evacuations—now lifted—in some parts of Las Vegas, prompting the city to issue a notice for restricted water use. “My administration is working with the City of Las Vegas to ensure its water treatment plant is fully operational in the aftermath of damaging floods,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “We’re doing everything in our power to get this problem resolved as quickly as possible.” The state has a website with resources and ways to help here.

NM Dems mark Dobbs anniversary

As of press time, US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra was slated to visit New Mexico as part of the Biden administration’s “National Reproductive Health for All Tour.” The tour comes as Democrats nationally and locally yesterday marked the two-year anniversary of the US Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade and upending abortion access in the country. According to recent data from the Guttmacher Institute, New Mexico has seen a surge of women from other states seeking abortions here, where it remains protected—from 38% in 2020 to 74% last year. “Two years after the Supreme Court took away women’s constitutional right to abortion and other reproductive health care, women in 21 states with abortion bans continue to be denied essential medical care to protect their health and save their lives,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “Republicans in Congress must listen to the voices of women across the country and enshrine reproductive rights into federal law.” The Democratic Party of New Mexico also released a statement, noting that “while abortion access remains protected in New Mexico, in other states, women and doctors are exposed to punishment, imprisonment, public interference, and violence for seeking reproductive health care.” And the state’s congressional House members also issued statements, with US Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez of the 3rd Congressional District saying: “In New Mexico, we believe that personal decisions about pregnancy belong between a woman, her faith, her familia, and her doctor. This election is about access to health care for women—about safety, about dignity, about love and respect. Wherever she lives.”

Sheriff discovers bones in Las Campanas

The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office is seeking information regarding skeletal remains discovered by deputies over the weekend in Las Campanas. According to a news release, deputies were dispatched to a location off of Las Campanas Drive near Calle Chiripa and Ranch Estates “in reference to the discovery of possible human skeletal remains on the side of the road.” The deputies’ initial inspection revealed the remains were located “in a shallow grave.” The Criminal Investigations Division was activated and is now investigating the discovery as a “suspicious death.” Neither the age nor gender of the bones, which the Office of the Medical Investigator removed, have been determined as of yet, and will be sent for analysis; the Santa Fe New Mexican reports Sheriff Adan Mendoza said an anthropologist had confirmed they were human. Detectives conducted an additional grid search on Sunday to look for more evidence, and missing Persons reports are being researched to try to make a possible preliminary identification. The case is active and ongoing and anyone with information they think might be relevant should reach out to Santa Fe County detectives at (505) 428-3720.

Ruling on Baldwin dismissal motion coming Friday

First Judicial District Court Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer will issue a written order Friday regarding Rust actor and producer Alec Baldwin’s remaining motion to dismiss the involuntary manslaughter charge against him for the Oct. 21, 2021 fatal on-set shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. Last Friday, Sommer denied motions from defense attorneys: to exclude state witnesses; to dismiss the case on the grounds of failure to state a criminal offense; and for use immunity for Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed from the state. The hearing continued Monday following technical difficulties for one of the witnesses. The remaining motion involves the defense’s request to dismiss the case due to destruction of evidence, specifically the gun Baldwin used on set. During arguments Monday afternoon, defense attorney John Bash described prosecutors’ actions throughout the case to be “some of the most egregious conduct” he’s ever seen. He argued defense should have been able to examine the internal parts of the gun or at least see photographs. In response to the arguments raised by defense, Special Prosecutor Erlinda Johnson argued defense attorneys failed to demonstrate the “perceived exculpatory value” of the gun was apparent to law enforcement—a key factor to justify dismissal. “This gun appeared perfectly fine,” Johnson said. “There seemed to be nothing wrong with it.” Jury selection for Baldwin’s trial is slated for July 9, while the trial itself will begin July 10. If convicted, he faces up to 18 months in prison.

Listen Up

Climate change’s impact on society includes effects on human health, from respiratory illnesses spurred by wildfire smoke to global pandemics. On the most recent episode of Our Land on New Mexico PBS, journalist Laura Paskus talks to Project ECHO’s Public Health Initiatives Program Director Dr. Joanna Katzman about the Climate Change and Human Health ECHO program through the University of New Mexico’s Health Sciences Center, which helps train health care and public health professionals to recognize and treat patients within the context of climate change. The climate change ECHO program will hold an online series this Wednesday, June 26 (from noon to 2 pm MST) on “Global Nuclear and Environmental Threats Critical to Climate Change and Human Health.

Tourism 101

Samantha Brown, host of the PBS show Places to Love, weighs in with tips for summer travelers including “the US travel destination everyone should visit at least once.” Take one guess. Yes, it’s Santa Fe. “It’s a confluence of beautiful cultures with Native American and Spanish,” Brown tells Parade magazine. “It’s a vibrant city of art that’s an easy 10-minute drive to beautiful hiking trails. Plus, I find that the margaritas taste best here.” According to Parade, 97% of Americans intend to travel this summer, most of them in the GenX and Boomer demographics. Brown says her favorite trend for 2024 travel is “the end of revenge travel,” which apparently refers to a trend in which people pay premium prices to travel after the confinement of the COVID-19 pandemic. They are now apparently “seeking out off-the-beaten path destinations and are willing to travel at off-peak times in order to save a few bucks.” Wherever they are going, Outside magazine has advice for being a “good” tourist, aka one that does not drive the locals bananas. Outside Travel Director and Santa Fe resident Mary Turner notes that she avoids the Plaza during the summer to avoid said tourists. “I’m happy that businesses are being supported by tourism, especially after the devastating affects of the pandemic on them,” Turner says. “But I do get frustrated when I see visitors being disrespectful, like smoking on hiking trails during fire season.”

Stressing at the airport

According to the Travel and Tour World website, a new study from a law firm identifies the most stressful airports in the US, ranking the tiny Santa Fe Regional Airport second. “Departures are delayed by an average of 14 minutes, and 1.6 out of every 100 Google reviews highlight the airport as stressful or unsafe, the fifth highest in the nation,” the story notes. We were unable to find this study (we made a modicum of effort), but it reportedly involved the law firm’s personal injury lawyers analyzing Google reviews; the number of cancellations per 100 departures; and average flight delay times across US airports with at least 1,000 departures annually. The airport’s Google reviews average a 3.6 rating and seemed—upon our bemused perusal—to be a mix of responses, ranging from a one star review that advises travelers to avoid the airport “like the plague,” to a recent five-star review that describes it as “a much better option than flying through Albuquerque.” SFR recently checked in on the airport and its never-ending construction, where Airport Manager James Harris says the terminal remodel portion of the project is complete, but the roadway to its front will remain unfinished until next month and an additional parking lot added to the construction plan is slated for completion in September.

The heat is on

The National Weather Service forecasts a 20% chance for rain today and tonight, with isolated showers and thunderstorms after 3 pm. Otherwise, it will be sunny, with a high temperature of 93 degrees. After today’s relative quiet, the weather will likely turn stormy Wednesday and Thursday.

Thanks for reading! The Word watched the Vogue World event livestream in Paris while cleaning her house in her pajamas.

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