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An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988
  Public Safety

Before and after “Firewise” trimming

Firewise is insurance-wise

—Rev. Ken Cuthbertson and Vicki Gottlieb, Placitas Firewise Steering Committee

Wildfire risk is galvanizing the insurance industry. The Placitas Firewise Steering Committee, whose purpose is to raise awareness and encourage actions that reduce the risk from wildfire to lives and homes in our community, recognizes that homeowners in Placitas are experiencing the effects of new industry fire safety requirements for homeowner’s insurance.

One Placitas resident, in order to qualify for a new homeowner’s insurance policy, received a list of mitigation activities from the insurance company specific to that property. The new policy was issued only after the activities, including better access for firefighters and tree thinning, were completed to the satisfaction of company inspectors. Another Placitas property had to undergo a wildfire risk assessment in order to qualify for insurance; and the owner wasn’t required to make any changes. Homeowner’s insurance brings peace of mind, and so do actions that improve the chances that our homes, and our neighbors’ homes, will not succumb to wildfire.

Not surprisingly, we are hearing more and more stories like this as property losses from wildfire increase year by year across the Rocky Mountain region. Natural disasters have a huge impact on insurance carriers, and more and more homeowners’ insurance providers are requiring their customers to take precautions to protect their property. Many companies are now conducting on-site inspections, and letting their customers know what is needed to reduce wildfire hazards to keep the property insurable. Many insurers ask policy holders to use the Firewise guidelines ( as well as local fire codes to carry out what needs to be done to make property insurable.

The interest of the insurance industry is to manage risk, both their own financial risk and the actual risk to the homes and property of those they insure. The beginning of a new year is a great time to review both the adequacy of our individual homeowners’ policies and to see what may be needed to maintain that coverage and reduce risk. The fact that we are once again experiencing a very dry winter season makes it all the more important that property owners take the initiative to do what can be done to reduce wildfire danger to ourselves and our neighbors.

The Placitas Firewise Steering Committee wishes everyone a happy, safe, and healthy New Year. We meet every other Thursday in January: 3, 17 and 31, from 10:00 a.m. to noon, in the Collin Meeting room at the Placitas Community Library to plan demo project(s) and a spring Placitas Let’s Be Firewise event. All are welcome.

For more information on Placitas Firewise, contact Vicki Gottlieb at or 404-8022.

On Scene with the SCFD

—Captain Tom Hansen, FF1

For the last few years, Placitas District #4 of the Sandoval County Fire Department has been raffling off a pedal fire engine at the Placitas Fine Arts and Craft Sale in November. In the past, the pedal car was purchased by Placitas District #4. This year our friends at Kinder Morgan, Inc. donated the children’s fire truck for the raffle. Kinder Morgan provided a fire safety training at their Diamond Tail facility this past summer.

Another donation for the raffle was made by Dr. David Williams, a Placitas resident. It was a hand-crafted guitar. The quality and workmanship of this instrument was excellent. Placitas has many very talented artists and craftsmen and Dr. Williams is certainly one of them.

Congratulations to the winners: Rosemary Delara and Steve Hildebrand.

Also, thanks to all who donated to the raffle.

Reminder: this is fireplace-burning season, and we’ve already had fire calls due to the unsafe disposal of ashes. Putting them in a bucket outside for a day does not always burn up the embers. Be sure to spread the ashes in a non-combustible area and wet them down. Be safe this winter.

NMDA reminds New Mexicans: don’t get burned when buying firewood

—Katie Goetz

As the weather turns cooler, New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA) is reminding people who plan to buy firewood to know what to look for so they get their money’s worth. NMDA’s Standards and Consumer Services Division (SCS) regulates New Mexico’s Weights and Measures Law, which addresses how firewood and other commodities must be advertised and sold in order to maintain fairness in the marketplace for both buyer and seller.

“This time of year, you might see some roadside firewood sellers using some pretty loose terms—face cord, loose cord, Albuquerque cord, truckload, load, rack, pile—but none of these are actual legal units of measurement,” said Ray Johnson, SCS assistant division director. “Since it’s impossible to know whether you’re getting a fair deal or not when you buy firewood labeled in these ways, people should look for firewood sold by the cord or fraction of a cord.”

In fact, state law requires firewood to be advertised and sold by the cord or fraction of a cord. A cord is legally defined as 128 cubic feet of wood, commonly seen in a tight stack four feet wide by four feet high by eight feet long with logs stacked parallel to one another. State law allows firewood sellers to sell lesser amounts of wood by weight, but the seller must declare the price-per-cord equivalent.

Things to keep in mind when buying firewood in New Mexico:

  • It is illegal to sell firewood in unspecified quantities such as load, truckload, face cord, loose cord, rack, or pile.
  • If firewood is sold by weight, the seller must declare the price per unit of weight and the equivalent price per cord. (This does not apply to firewood sold in packaged bundles of less than one hundred pounds).
  • The buyer should have the firewood stacked and measured while the seller is present.
  • Each delivery of firewood must be accompanied by a receipt or invoice containing the name and address of the buyer and seller, date of delivery, quantity delivered, identity of the commodity, and the total selling price.
  • If possible, the buyer should get the seller’s phone number and the license plate of the delivery vehicle.
  • Bundles of kindling wood or similar packages must be labeled with a statement of net content in terms of weight or measure.
  • The label must include the name and place of business of the packager or distributor and a word or phrase identifying the product.

Firewood buyers who suspect that a company or individual is selling firewood in a way that violates state law may contact NMDA by visiting or by calling NMDA’s Standards and Consumer Services Division at 575-646-1616.

Las Conchas fire area closures and hazards

—Santa Fe National Forest

The Santa Fe National Forest reminds the public that certain areas of the Las Conchas fire area are open, however some areas remain closed due to safety hazardous. Standing burnt trees that could fall on vehicles pose a significant risk to anyone driving on roads that have not been cleared of these hazards. Vehicle camping is not permitted off designated open roads.

What’s Closed: FR 287, FR 500.

What’s Open: FR 10, FR 36, FR 270, FR 266, FR 268 (Hwy 4 to Cochiti Mesa), FR 280, FR 281, FR 282, FR 289.

In the Las Conchas burn area, motor vehicles may travel on designated open roads only. Pedestrians and non-motorized vehicle users may travel throughout open areas. 

Though some areas have been deemed safe for public use, the Forest Service reminds visitors that entering the forest presents risk and requires good situational awareness for any potential hazards. Be aware of burned trees that could fall, stump holes that may be hidden by debris, falling rocks impacted by the heat of the fire that can break off and roll downhill, and imminent flash flooding.

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