Archive for June, 2011
by John Weckerle
With no promise of significant moisture in the near future, more than a quarter of a million acres of New Mexico have burned in just the currently active fires scattered throughout the state, not counting the portion of New Mexico burned in the Wallow Fire, Arizona’s largest fire to date.
Ranging from the relatively small (at 720 acres) Osha fire near Penasco to the almost 89,000-acre Miller fire north of Silver City, firefighters are battling nine major fires in the Land of Enchantment. Containment ranges from 98% for the Osha Fire to an alarming 3% for the Las Conchas fire near Las Cruces. Two fires (Donaldson and Crooked Creek Complex) were caused by lightning, two (Miller and Track) are known to be human-caused, and the causes of five others are under investigation. Some of the fires have been burning for more than two months.
by Wayne Johnson, Bernalillo County Commissioner
No one is perfect. The devil is in the details. No good deed goes unpunished… Every saying a cliché and every saying accurately describes Bernalillo County’s Ethics Ordinance. The ordinance was – I believe – an honest attempt to protect the public from both the perception and reality of misbehavior by county employees and elected officials. It created a set of standards and a process for enforcing those standards.
Allegations against any county employee or elected official can be made through a sworn complaint or anonymously. A web portal was set up to collect anonymous complaints and not surprisingly the county’s web portal quickly became the favorite way to file a complaint.
No one is perfect… In order to protect employees and officials from frivolous complaints, anonymous complaints are reviewed by an independent investigator to determine the validity of the allegation and the applicability of the ordinance. Should facts supporting a violation be found, the ordinance requires that the Internal Audit Contractor “prepare the sworn complaint and present its investigation to the Ethics Board.”
The ordinance clearly intends that a full board of five members be present to hear complaints – even providing for a replacement appointee where a member has a conflict of interest.
by Catherine Lopez, Bernalillo County Public Information Department
“Any Spark Can Start a Fire”
Bernalillo County Fire Department wants to get the word out
Bernalillo County – Bernalillo County can only ban and restrict certain fireworks, it can’t ban the sale of fireworks. But for public safety reasons, we are seeking voluntary compliance from residents to refrain from using fireworks this year.
“With the extreme dry conditions around Bernalillo County and the fires that are already burning in our state, we need to pull together as a community to ensure the safety of our community,” says County Fire Chief, John Garcia.
For information on the fireworks ban and restrictions in the unincorporated areas of Bernalillo County, visit www.bernco.gov.
by John Weckerle
We would like to draw our readers’ attention to the most recent KOB TV story on the Track Fire near Raton, New Mexico. We find the following quotes especially relevant:
Investigators have figured out what caused the 27,000 acre track fire near Raton that destroyed multiple homes and caused 500 people to evacuate.
New Mexico State Forestry says exhaust particles from an ATV in the area is what most likely caused the dry brush to catch fire.
According to findings from investigators, the ATV driver or drivers trespassed onto private property then headed onto land owned by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway…
Investigators say whoever is responsible could face multiple charges including criminal trespassing and improper handling of fire.
“The person or persons who started this fire—whether it was intentional or not could be held liable for the cost of suppression which is now in the millions of dollars,” said New Mexico State Forestry Service spokesman Dan Ware.
One important thing to note is this: Whoever started this fire may not even have known they started it. They could have been long gone before the first wisp of smoke was even visible.
We bring this up because we’ve noted that there’s been some off-road ATV activity in the vicinity of NM-Central headquarters. We’d like to ask that everyone reading this who owns an ATV please keep your vehicles on the road or in other approved places until New Mexico gets enough moisture to bring the fire danger back down to a level where use of ATVs is safe, and pass the word to your friends who own ATVs. Everyone thinks they’ll never be the one to start a fire like this, but anyone can be. Understand that the fact that it’s an accident doesn’t mean that it isn’t your fault, or that you’re not liable for suppression costs and damages.
We understand that it’s no fun to have to keep the ATV in the garage during a New Mexico summer, but please remember: droughts affect everybody, and we all have to watch out for each other. These are dangerous times, and it’s critical that we all do what we can to help avoid disaster. The rains will come eventually, and it’ll be safe to ride again (in places where it’s legal, of course, and please don’t trespass). Let’s all do our part to make sure that those great places to ride remain great places to ride and don’t become a burnt-out mess.
by John Weckerle
A few weeks ago, we posted an article on the completion of Bed 4, a dual-layer partially raised bed surrounding an old juniper skeleton that had been planted with a trumpet vine. We are pleased to report that the concept appears to be functioning very well. With the exception of much of the chard (alas, rabbits) and a couple of snow peas that were in questionable shape when they went into the ground, the plants have all adjusted to their new surroundings and appear to be flourishing; there’s even a green bell pepper or two on the way. This afternoon, we noted the presence of what appears to be a “volunteer” tomato plant (from the household compost, no doubt). The trumpet vine survived the winter – rather unexpectedly – and with the enriched soil and additional moisture, there’s a good bet we’ll be making some hummingbirds very, very happy.
In that article, we alluded to the construction of Bed 5, the latest of our horticultural/agricultural experiments. Like Beds 1 through 3, which are lying fallow this year and will likely be relocated and repurposed, Bed 5 is a raised bed. But it’s much more than just a raised bed. Drum roll…
by John Weckerle
Checking in on our friends at Mountainair Announcements, we find news on the US Department of Agriculture Summer Food Service Program, which provides meals to children without charge. According to Mountainair Announcements, the program is currently offering lunch at Mountainair Elementary School, Ernestine Garcia Park in Willard, Quarai National Monument, Manzano Convent in Manzano, The Torreon Community Building in Torreon, and the Tajique Community Building in Tajique. For additional information and meal times, see the Mountainair Announcements articles here and here.
by Larry Gallegos, Bernalillo County Public Information Department
Tuesday, June 14, Bernalillo County – At tonight’s commission meeting, the Bernalillo County Board of Commissioners approved a ban on some fireworks in the unincorporated areas of the county.
“The severe drought conditions and the potential risk to life, property and the environment prompted the ban,” says Bernalillo County Fire Chief John Garcia. “The ban is effective immediately and will remain in force through July 14, 2011.”
The ban includes the sale and use of missile-type rockets, helicopters, aerial spinners, stick-type rockets and ground audible devices within the unincorporated areas of Bernalillo County.
The restrictions ban the use of all fireworks in wildland areas which include unincorporated areas east of Louisiana Boulevard to the west face of the Sandia Mountains and from San Antonio north to the Sandia Indian Reservation; all the East Mountain area, north, south and east to the county line and portions of the unincorporated areas to include the Rio Grande bosque and wildland areas extending 1000 feet from the outer edge of the bosque.
Also banned are the sale or use of display fireworks. The ban applies to the use of fireworks that shoot higher than 10 feet in the air, have a 6 foot or larger coverage area and fireworks that are louder than a cap gun.
The use of ground and hand-held sparkling and smoke device type fireworks are limited to areas that are paved or barren. There should also be a readily accessible source of water (a bucket of water or a hose) for use to extinguish the fireworks.
If an individual is caught with prohibited fireworks, a citation could be issued and the individual may have to appear in court. Violators could be fined up to $1000 and sentenced to less than one year in jail. If it is determined that the use of fireworks was the cause of a fire that damaged property, the responsible individual may be held liable for those damages.
by Arlene Perea, USDA Forest Service Mountainair Ranger District
Mountainair, NM, June 6, 2011: Mountainair Fire Crews along with a 20 person hand crew from Northern California are currently working to suppress the Red Spring Fire which was reported by Capilla Peak Lookout at approximately 1pm this afternoon. Air resources have made one drop of fire retardant on the fire at this time. The fire is approximately 3 acres at this time and exhibiting some active fire behavior; however, crews were able to reach the scene promptly and are making good progress with the support of a Single Engine Air Tanker.
Crews also responded last night to another fire south of the Thunderbird private property. The fire was approximately 1/4 acre and crews were able to contain this fire by 9am this morning.
by John Weckerle
Last weekend the entire population of New Mexico Central headquarters took a road trip to see relatives in Apache Junction, Arizona, which is part of the Phoenix metropolitan area. Surprisingly, only one day of our stay was very hot, with the other two days topping out at 90 degrees or below. Senior Travel Correspondent Wilson was very excited about the sights, sounds, and smells of the suburban setting we visited, and made plenty of new friends during his numerous walks. Highlights of the trip included a stop at The Great Indoors, seeing the movie “Thor” (good fare for fans of the comic book movie genre), and dinner at Chevy’s Mexican restaurant. Chevy’s makes a very good shrimp and crab enchilada, and most of their other food is above average as well. The margaritas were very good, and the fresh guacamole (made at the table) disappeared very rapidly into our cast of appreciative diners.
The trip also included a bit of time for photography, including a stop at the Phoenix Zoo. We were not able to tour the entire zoo, but did manage to see between a third and a half of it. What we saw indicated that a return visit to see the rest is in order. Most enclosures are large, and a number of them provided good opportunity for pictures – something that is not necessarily the standard at all zoos. There is ample shade, and water fountains were available as needed. Several options are available for food. The Zoo’s summer hours are 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., an obvious concession to the high temperatures typical of Phoenix at this time of year, and we wish we’d known they were open so early when we got up that day – in a classic vacation oversight, we forgot to check the night before. Since it was part of the party’s reaction to heat that drove us off, we’d have been better off getting there earlier than our 9-ish arrival. Still, we got the chance to see a number of animals and snap a few photos.
by John Weckerle
It was with some amusement that we read about the formation of a new local Tea Party chapter, the Sandia Tea Party, at Gadabout-Blogalot.com. We’re wondering whether there will be turf wars; there’s already an East Mountain Tea Party, and the Sandias are, after all, part of the East Mountains.
We decided to look the new group up, and found their web site. Some parts of the site are still apparently being worked out, but we were interested to see that the Contact Us page listed the president of the chapter: John Doe.
This is just what we needed – another shadowy organization run by anonymous “patriots” championing their version of “conservative” ideology. At what point did we arrive at the conclusion that there’s something wrong with having our names associated with that in which we believe? Whether we agree with the positions of an organization or not, we assign essentially zero credibility to the opinions and positions of those who speak in combative terms but lack the fortitude to put their names where their mouths are. We’ll be watching, and turning over rocks where we can find them.