Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Public Safety

Sandoval County firefighters battle a house fire on Caminito Trail in Placitas Trails subdivision as flames break through the roof. 
Photo credit: —Sandoval County Fire Department

Firefighters battle heat and water shortage as home burns

—Bill Diven

A stubborn fire wrecked a home in Placitas Trails and threatened its neighbors last month as firefighters from around the region sent personnel and water to quell the flames.

While the cause of the July 11 fire on Caminito Trail remains under investigation, it likely was accidental, Sandoval County Fire Chief James Maxon told the Signpost. The investigation is being handled by the county fire marshal, he added.

At least six firefighters were treated at the scene for heat exhaustion, as temperatures were near one hundred degrees Fahrenheit. The fire call came in at 4:31 p.m., and the first crew was on the scene in nine minutes, Maxon said.

The chief arrived ahead of the first trucks and acted as incident commander.

“There was heavy smoke coming from the garage,” Maxon said. “The front windows of the house were already stained black indicating it had been burning for a while when we got there.”

Water quickly became an issue. Homes in the area are on a shared well, and the nearest hydrant belonging to a water association down Placitas Trails Road failed almost immediately despite being tested successfully six months earlier.

“At one point, the fire breached the roof and spread into a tree,” Maxon said. “We, at that point, were out of water and couldn’t do much. The fields were on fire, and it was moving toward other houses.”

Fire departments from Bernalillo, Corrales, Rio Rancho, and Bernalillo County responded to Maxon’s call for assistance, bringing more personnel and two water tenders. The tenders, working with three already on scene, shuttled water to fill portable tanks set up to supply the hose trucks.

The fire was considered out around 9:00 p.m. In all, about thirty firefighters joined in the battle, and no additional structures burned.

“That probably is a third more people than normal, but we needed them because of the heat,” Maxon said.

The homeowner had been gone about 45 minutes when the fire was reported, and the only occupants of the house—a cat and two dogs—escaped the flames, he added. The home is considered a total loss.

The failure of the fire hydrant is something of a mystery, although a break in the water main was found about a mile away. Maxon said he has met with the water association board, and he and they are looking into whether the break was related to firefighters tying in and opening the hydrant.

The earlier test was part of a countywide review of firefighting resources that led to an upgrade in the county’s fire rating. Improved fire ratings generally result in lower rates for fire insurance.

To maintain the fire rating, Maxon said he’d be working with water associations to set up regular testing of hydrants.

The county and other agencies also have imposed bans on most open burning given the dry conditions and the disappointing start to the normally wet monsoon season. Maxon said his crews have responded to more field fires that have gotten away than usual.

“Most of the people who are doing this have been burning their fields for a long time, and they know what they’re doing,” he said. “When they start losing control, it’s time for a burn ban.”

Fire restrictions abound during “non-soons”

Signpost Staff

Much of New Mexico is under fire restrictions as hot, dry conditions continue, and the monsoon turns into what some are calling the “non-soon.”

As of July 20, the National Weather Service Albuquerque Forecast Office had recorded 0.24 inches of rain since the official start of the monsoon season on June 15. In an average year the weather service records nearly two inches of rain from June 15 to July 31 and 4.61 inches through September.

Along the way, cities have be setting temperature records as highs have been running ten degrees, and more, above long-term averages.

Sandoval County has banned open burning in the unincorporated areas under its jurisdiction. The open-ended ban took effect on July 15 and covers all open flames, including campfires, fire rings and pits, and agricultural burning.

Exempted are liquid- and gas-fueled stoves, fireplaces within buildings, and charcoal grills at private residences.

The Cibola and Santa Fe national forests also have announced fire restrictions that include their lands in the county. In the Cibola the Sandia, Mountainair and Mount Taylor ranger districts restrictions are at Stage II. That bans fires and campfires from all fuel sources and smoking except in buildings, vehicles, developed recreation sites, or in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren of flammable material.

At last report the Santa Fe restrictions were still at Stage I, which limits fires and campfires to developed campsites or picnic areas with existing fire rings or grills. Fireworks already are banned in national forests.

The Bureau of Land Management also has imposed fire restrictions on the 2.5 million acres it manages in the eight-county Albuquerque District. Those ban all fires and campfires except for the existing rings and grills within the Datil Well and Joe Skeen campgrounds.

Folds of Honor Patriot Gala coming in September

The nonprofit Folds of Honor Foundation was established nine years ago by Major Dan Rooney of the Tulsa Air National Guard—himself a veteran of three combat tours in Afghanistan. Its mission is to provide educational scholarships to children and spouses of servicemen killed or severely injured since the September 11 terrorism attack

Jim Quick of Placitas, a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, along with the Rio Grande Patriot team, have organized this second annual Folds of Honor Patriot Gala. Jim said that Federal Educational Benefits are available to only about 13 percent of those in need of assistance. The Rio Grande Patriots primary purpose is to raise funds for the Folds of Honor Foundation, which has already provided over one hundred thousand in scholarships to New Mexico recipients

Ms. Suzanna Ausborn, a local Gold Star wife will be the featured speaker at the gala. Suzanna’s husband Jeff was killed five years ago while serving in Afghanistan. He and eight others were assassinated by an Afghanistan guard.

Also speaking will be Major Ed Pulido, Executive Vice President of The Folds of Honor and a severely injured survivor of an IED attack in Iraq.

The gala will pay special tribute to the 87 New Mexicans who have paid the ultimate sacrifice since September 11 and will honor civilian and military individuals who go above and beyond to help our local servicemen and women. A local scholarship will be presented.

The Folds of Honor Patriot Gala will be held at Sandia Resort/Casino on September 10. Additional information is available at

Shade is where you find it this summer, even as this rabbit found by seeking shelter under a Jeep.
Photo credit: —Bill Diven

“National Night Out” event at Cabezon Park

—Annemarie L. García

On August 2, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Rio Rancho residents and members of the public are invited to a free event at Cabezon Park in conjunction with “National Night Out.” All proceeds made from booth rentals and donations will be donated to the Regional Law Enforcement Officer Memorial. The event will feature guest speakers at 6:00 p.m., including Rio Rancho Mayor Greggory Hull and Chief of Police Michael Geier, vendor booths, food trucks, and kid-friendly entertainment.

National Night Out, or “America’s Night Out Against Crime,” is designed to promote community member involvement in crime-prevention activities, police-community partnerships, neighborhood camaraderie, and to send a message to criminals that neighborhoods are organized.

For additional information, call 217-1130. Cabezon Park is located at 2307 Cabezon Boulevard which can be accessed from either Golf Course Road or Unser Boulevard.

Top of Page

Ad Rates  Back Issues  Contact Us  Front Page  Up Front  Animal News   Around Town  Sandoval Arts   Business Classifieds  Calendar   Community Bits  Community Center  Eco-Beat  Featured Artist  Gauntlet Health  Community Links  Night Sky  My Wife and Times  Public Safety  Real  People  Stereogram  Time Off  Youth