Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Around Town

Christmas events brighten Bernalillo

—Signpost Staff

The Christmas season is coming to Bernalillo with a light-filled parade, visits from Santa Claus, and aid to less-fortunate residents.

First up is a tree-lighting ceremony at 6:00 p.m. on December 5, at the Town Hall on Camino del Pueblo. The next day the thirtieth annual Nighttime Christmas Parade and Bonfire begins at 6:00 p.m., also on Camino del Pueblo, and ends with a bonfire at Rotary Park. The parade starts at Calle Escuela and moves south to Avenida Bernalillo

Carolers from community youth groups will entertain at the tree lighting, and both events will feature biscochitos and hot apple cider. Ribbons will be awarded for the best parade floats, so the town has been encouraging entrants to use lots of lights in their decorations.

Then, on December 23, the town hosts a holiday social from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Recreation Center at Rotary Park. The free event includes displays, entertainment, refreshments and an appearance by Santa “to visit with children and give goodies,” according to the town of Bernalillo monthly newsletter.

Santa also will be at Town Hall at noon on Christmas Day to pass out treats.

Meanwhile, the town has established its annual Children’s Christmas Fund to accept donations of money and new toys to help brighten the holidays for local kids. Forms are available at town hall to request a toy for a child.

Donations of coats for children in need are part of another annual drive sponsored by the town that wrapped up at the end of November.

At last count, more than one hundred coats had been received for distribution throughout the Bernalillo Public Schools, said town Information Technology Director Fernando Lomas, who is managing the project. About 250 coats were donated during the first two years of the effort, he added.

So far, the majority of this year’s coats have come from the six hundred residents of the Del Webb Alegria, a 55-and-older community that opened in 2006 on the town’s west side.

“It’s our awesome residents that started this,” said Julie Karl, Alegria’s lifestyle director. “They wanted to contribute to the town.”

Added this year was a pancake breakfast with admission by a coat or five dollars to go to buying more coats.

Also organized to contribute again this year is the Knights of Columbus Council 7633 from Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in Bernalillo.

“We ask each member for a used coat or to purchase a new coat,” Grand Knight Rick Poolaw said.

The final day for donations was November 28. The coats will be delivered to the schools during the first week of December.

Las Posadas de Placitas invites all

Las Posadas de Placitas will be held on December 24, at 5:00 p.m., in the Village of Placitas. Anyone interested in participating is invited to do so. Children ages six to 12 years are welcome to participate by dancing with the Comanchitos.

For more information or to make a donation to aid in making the Posadas possible, contact Mary Lou Arriola at 480-6855.

Corrales art show helps to preserve history

—Debbie Clemente

On December 6, 7, and 8, from 10 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., the Corrales Historical Society will be hosting its 26th annual Old Church Fine Crafts Show. Held at Old San Ysidro Church at 966 Old Church Road, across from Casa San Ysidro. The event is free and open to the public with free parking.

Enjoy traditional and contemporary artwork showcasing a wide array of art forms. Prices range from two dollars to approximately $150 dollars. Proceeds from the show go to preservation and maintenance of the Old Church that serves as the cultural and historical heart of the Village of Corrales.

Cibola National Forest selling Christmas tree cutting permits

—Karen Takai

The Cibola National Forest and National Grasslands began selling Christmas tree cutting permits beginning on November 17 for the Mt. Taylor and Magdalena Ranger Districts. Trees may be cut between November 27 and December 24. Cost is ten dollars per tree (up to ten feet). For trees taller than ten feet, the cost is one dollar per foot. The tags are also good for digging up a living tree.

Christmas Tree tags may be purchased at the following locations:

  • Magdalena Ranger District Office: 575-854-2281
  • Cibola National Forest and Grasslands Supervisor’s Office: 346-3900
  • Mt. Taylor Ranger District Office: 287-8833
  • Northwest New Mexico Visitors Center, locatednear Grants: 876-2783

For Cibola National Forest and Grasslands: 346-3900

Additional information about the Christmas Tree Cutting Program can be found at

A juniper branch windrow laid on contour provides long-lasting snow on its north side.
Photo credit: —Michael Crofoot

The great fire of Placitas—1835

—Michael Crofoot

Above the Diamond Tail Estates development on Forest Service land there is a small group of most remarkable juniper trees. It is hard to describe them, but I shall try. First, it is obvious that the trees are very old, with trunks nearly three feet in diameter. Some of the trees have axe marks on them. These tree trunks are narrowly fluted such that the trunks in cross section are the shape of a long thin V. The open part of the V shaped trunks face up slope towards the mountain. There are small strips of live bark running up the trunks on the up-slope side, leading to a little bit of green foliage above. Facing north, down slope, the tree trunks have no bark and are very smooth to the touch. These dead parts of the age-old juniper trees are as black as the cold coals of a hot fire. Are these trees exactly what they appear to be—living remembrances of a long-forgotten giant fire?

It appears that there was a great fire that burned up the Las Huertas Creek bosque, starting from Algodones and went right through the Placitas area and then raced up the north flanks of the Sandia Mountain to the very top around 180 years ago. The first newspaper in New Mexico was started in 1842 and there is no mention of the giant Sandia fire, hence I have made an 1835 guesstimate.

The Great Fire must have utterly changed the landscapes all around the various villages of Placitas. It would clearly have been a big stand replacing fire, which would have taken out the tall mountain forest and brought in the shrubby low foothill woodlands—burning out the big Ponderosa pines and Douglas firs and thereby helping the much smaller piñon pines and junipers to take their place.

There are other signs of this Great Fire. The so-called thin black line can be found along several places on the banks of the Las Huertas Creek. One such stretch is found in the south bank at the extreme east of the Placitas Open Space. Here a black carbon line a quarter inch thick runs for several yards exactly on the horizontal. It has about four inches of fine ash soil above it, and then above that are the soil and pebble layers so commonly seen along the Las Huertas creek banks. Another section of the thin black line can be found further upstream about two miles on the north bank of the Las Huertas. Again, this quarter-inch-thick  composed of a deposit of small pebbles running to larger boulders with precious little soil between. I suspect this rocky layer just above the fire mark is sign of huge erosion events, which could be expected from a watershed after a large fire burned up the surrounding Bosque and the slopes above it.

Back in April, 2013, Dr Ellis Margolis of the University of Arizona’s Tree Ring Laboratory came to Placitas to visit with me in search of further evidence that there was a great fire here in the early 1800s. We went on a hike down into the Las Huertas riverbed, just east of our Placitas Open Space and looked closely at the river bank on the north side of the Las Huertas. Ellis quickly found a thick line of charcoal bits going horizontally straight across the face of the bank. Above the black line in this Las Huertas bank there was two to three feet of small stones and packed sandy silt layers Ellis took three samples of the charcoal to try some Radio-carbon dating. I haven’t heard back yet about Ellis’ findings.

I talked about this possible Great Fire with the reigning elder of the north Sandia Mountains, Bob Cooper of the Cooper-Ellis Ranch, and also with a much respected Hispanic elder of Placitas, Willie Escarcida, recently deceased. Both men were in their 80s and have had lifelong interests in the history of the north Sandias. In general, there was complete agreement in their accounts of the fire. Both men had heard that there was a huge fire that had burnt right up the north face of the Sandias, and that this happened sometime in the early 1800s. Mr Escarcida had been told that the fire burnt up the Las Huertas creek from somewhere near Algodones and went right through the village of Placitas, which was then “abandoned after the fire for at least three years”. A 75-year-old friend recently told me he talked with an elder Hispanic man many years ago in the Village of Placitas about the fire. The elder Hispanic man said that the next year or so after the great fire, there was much snow and rain in our area and come spring the flowing waters in the burnt landscape created a lot of erosion.

Are there any other signs or stories of a Great Fire in the history of Placitas that readers can share? And if there was a devastating Great Fire here in near history what does it tell us about the present landscapes to the north of the Sandia Mountains? I have heard two different and much respected Placitans say that it is not “if” there is another great fire that burns up the north face of the Sandias, but “when” will it happen?

New Mexico is in deep drought now. The last two years have been the driest on record, and all this surpasses the big drought of the 1950s. Sustained drought sets the stage for more wildfires. There is an education and awareness group in our area called Firewise Placitas, and we are blessed to have them working on behalf of our beleaguered landscapes north of the Sandias. It turns out that much can be done to reduce Placitas’s vulnerability to wildfire. Over the past several years, the Firewise Placitas folks have organized a series of workshops about wildfire, what can be done to help reduce the risk to landscapes and buildings from wildfires, and emergency preparedness. Dead tree removal and selective thinning of crowded junipers can reduce this vulnerability to wildfire. For more information about Firewise Placitas, contact Vicki Gottlieb at 404-8022 or email to

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