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  Public Safety

James Maxon

James Maxon, chief, Sandoval County Fire Department

SC Fire Department appoints new chief

—Sidney Hill, Sandoval County Public Information Officer

James H. Maxon was installed as Sandoval County Fire Chief on January 10, 2013, during the regular meeting of the Sandoval County Commission. Maxon has been serving as interim fire chief since July 2012, following the death of longtime Sandoval County Fire Chief Jon Tibbetts in a tragic car accident.

Chief Tibbetts’ widow, Connie Tibbetts, placed the chief’s pin on Maxon’s uniform at the ceremony.

At the time of Maxon’s appointment as interim chief, County Manager Phil Rios said he didn’t want to rush the decision of naming a new chief, particularly given the circumstances under which the position came open. However, he also expressed confidence in Maxon’s ability to lead the department at such a critical time.

Over the past six months, Maxon has justified the county’s manager’s confidence in him, resulting in his appointment as the permanent Sandoval County Fire Chief.

“Working with James these past six months has made me realize why Chief Tibbetts had such high regard for him,” County Manager Rios said. “I have full confidence that he will move the department forward and ensure our citizens continue to receive the highest level of Fire and EMS services.”

Maxon’s performance also was recognized by his peers in the fire-fighting community, who in September 2012 selected him as New Mexico Fire Officer of the Year. When presenting him with that award, State Fire Marshal John Standefer noted how Maxon had managed to keep the Sandoval County Fire Department operating at its usual level of excellence during an especially challenging time.

Chief Maxon has more than twenty years of fire service experience. He joined the Sandoval County Fire Department in January 2006, assuming the role of deputy chief and county fire marshal. Prior to that, Maxon was a senior inspector, investigator, and instructor with the New Mexico State Fire Marshal’s Office. He also was instrumental in the founding of the Fire Science Technology Program at Santa Fe Community College.

“I am honored to be named Sandoval County Fire Chief,” Maxon said. “I have spent the last twenty years of my career obtaining the training, education, and experience needed to be a fire chief. I am looking forward to leading our department and continuing to make it an organization with a tradition of excellence that is always there when citizens call on us.”

Residential break-in

Allen Mills, Sergent, Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office

With the healthy lifestyles maintained by many Placitas residents, it is not at all unusual to see people (usually residents) walking in Placitas neighborhoods. But it’s also pretty common that we know or at least recognize the neighbors who take these healthy morning and afternoon strolls or hikes. There is now reason to believe that one or more of the thieves who perpetrated the unsuccessful burglary on Vista Sandia Court on January 15, 2013, parked their vehicle on Sky Mountain Road, a short distance away from the burglary scene and then walked to the home where they broke in (and were foiled by the resident’s audible alarm). So please be alert for strangers walking in/through our neighborhoods, including those who park vehicles and then get out to take their walks.

1) It is important that residents should call the Sandoval County Sheriff’s non-emergency telephone number 867-4581 to report the presence of any vehicle that does not belong in your neighborhood. Provide a description and vehicle make and license number if you can get them without coming into contact with suspicious people.

2) Residents should not be concerned that anyone would accuse them of being alarmists because they report what appears to them to be suspicious activity. Let the Sheriff’s office check it out. The one that you decide to report (or not to report) might be the key to solving a crime already committed or that results in Sheriff’s Deputies catching thieves red handed in the process of burgling a neighbor’s home.

3) Everyone must remember that it is not appropriate for civilians to confront suspected criminals or anyone else walking or driving through our neighborhoods. Residents must not act as vigilantes. Suspicious activity should be reported to the Sheriff’s Dispatcher at 867-4581. Face-to-face confrontations are the province of trained and authorized law enforcement officers. 

Residents should call 911 to report a crime in progress or any other emergency.

Wise about wildfire

—Michael Crofoot and Vicki Gottlieb

The past year of 2012 was the warmest on record in the United States. The deep drought in New Mexico continues. The so-called wildfire season in New Mexico is arriving earlier and lasting longer. State Forestry officials believe that depending on fuel and weather conditions, a wildfire can happen at almost any time during the year. The situation in Placitas is no less alarming. Junipers, so prevalent in our area, are sometimes called ‘green gas cans’ because they can burst into flames in seconds. The blackened patch of grass on the south side of the “S” curves on Route 165 is a recent memory, one that could have been worse if alert drivers and quick response hadn’t contained it. Something must be done!

Opportunity is at hand thanks to the involvement of the Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District (CSWCD), the Las Placitas Association, the Earth Care Fellowship of Las Placitas Presbyterian Church, Las Huertas Community Ditch, and Firewise Placitas. The CSWCD recently approved $5,000 to match costs associated with making an acre around several Placitas homes as safe from wildfire as possible using a Firewise approach ( A limited number of home sites will be selected by a professional outside the community from those who apply. Participating properties will become demonstration sites for area residents to drive by and learn from.

In order to make the best use of these fifty/fifty matching funds and to provide dramatic examples of what can be done to make our homes safer, this pilot program intends to focus on properties that are particularly vulnerable to wildfire. Participating homeowners will:

  • have a professional assessment of their property, at an average cost of $50, or, in as many cases as possible, at no cost, which includes recommended actions which then become the basis of a contract to make an acre around the home Firewise and less vulnerable to wildfire
  • pay a licensed contractor half the cost to thin trees on that acre according to the contract
  • allow a sign to be posted by the road showing ‘before and after’ photos of the work for the benefit of those who drive by.

The pilot program will accept applications from Placitas homeowners from March 1 until March 31. On March 16, retired forester George Duda will give an informative and inspiring presentation on reducing vulnerability to wildfire.

For more information, or to get an application form, contact Vicki Gottlieb at or call 404-8022. You can also contact one of the sponsoring organizations listed above. Applications will also be available at the Placitas Community Library on the Firewise shelf starting March 1.

February Firewise Placitas meetings will focus on planning a Spring community event. We meet on first and third Thursdays at 10:00 a.m., February 7 and 21, in the Placitas Community Library Collin Meeting Room. Everyone is welcome.

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