Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Public Safety

Jon Tibbetts

Jon Tibbetts

Habitat for Humanity dedicating home to former County Fire Chief Tibbetts

The one-hundred-seventieth house to be built by the Greater Albuquerque Habitat for Humanity will be dedicated to former Sandoval County Fire Chief Jon Tibbetts.

Groundbreaking for the house at 6432 Trujillo Road, SW, occurred in Albuquerque on June 1. This project is the result of partnership between Presbyterian Healthcare Services and the Sandoval County, Rio Rancho, and Corrales Fire Departments.

Jon Tibbetts was killed last year in the line of duty while serving as the Sandoval County Fire Chief. He also worked for Albuquerque Ambulance Services, a division of Presbyterian, for more than 18 years, before joining the Sandoval County Fire Department. The three-bedroom, two-bath home being built in Chief Tibbetts’ honor should be ready for occupancy by the end of September 2013. At that time, a qualified Habitat Partner Family will be welcomed into the home with a ribbon-cutting celebration.

Anyone interested in supporting the Chief Tibbetts build, can contact Habitat for Humanity at 265-0057 or

SCDC takes BCDC prisoners

Signpost Staff

Sandoval County Detention Center (SCDC) agreed last month to accept 48 inmates from Bernalillo County Detention Center (BCDC). One-hundred-ninety federal prisoners were removed from BCDC in 2012 following three suicides. BCDC was ordered to move prisoners due to overcrowding. Sandoval County Information Officer Sidney Hill said that 48 prisoners is the maximun number SCDC can take at current staffing levels.  SCDC is in process of interviewing additional staff so they take more BCDC inmates. Hill said that the number of prisoners BCDC can accommodate ultimately depends on the number of beds available. BCDC is still trying to meet federal standards for housing prisoners, but no date for their return has not been set.  Meanwhile, the arrangement with BCDC is good for the Sandoval County budget as it reduces supplemental funding required from the general fund.

Forest closures limit recreation

Signpost Staff

It started on May 22, when the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD) barred the public from 30,000 acres of Bosque from Cochiti Dam to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, south of Socorro. The Albuquerque Bosque remains open, but boaters can still launch at the Coronado Campground in Bernalillo.

The United States Forest Service (USFS) closed the Pecos/Las Vegas Ranger District and both the Carson and Santa Fe portions of the Pecos Wilderness on June 5 due to wildfires burning in the area.

The Sandia Ranger District closed the forest on June 10 due to very high fire danger. The only open areas are portions of Forest Trail 365, including secondary trails associated with Forest Trail 365, outside of the Sandia Mountain Wilderness and South of the Tram. In addition, the Tram, High Finance Restaurant /Deck, the Sandia Ranger District Administrative site and the Tijeras Pueblo Interpretive Trail have remained open.

“Our weather is still trending to be dry and our fuel moistures are at very low levels. With these moistures so low, the threat of a large fire is quite high. We need to make sure human starts do not happen, and that means keeping people out of the forest until fire risk has lessened. We also need to make sure there are no visitors in the backcountry area if something did start. We would not be able to rescue you. So, please stay out,” said Matt Rau, Fire Management Officer, Sandia RD.

These closures will be enforced, and fines will be issued. A single person entering closed areas, or using open fire in any manner, will be cited up to $5,000 dollars and up to six months in jail, and for a group, fines can get up to $10,000 dollars, and up to six months in jail.

Stage III Fire closure restrictions include: entering closure areas by vehicle, hiking, running, horseback riding, motorcycles, roller blades, or flying in.

In the Foothill trail system (which will still be open), as defined in the first paragraph, the following activities are prohibited:

  • Building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire, campfire, charcoal, coal, wood, or stove fire
  • Using an explosive
  • Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building
  • Possessing, discharging, or using any type of firework or pyrotechnic device
  • Operating a chainsaw or other equipment powered by an internal combustion engine
  • Welding or operating acetylene or other torch with open flame

The current Fire Restriction orders can be found on the Cibola’s web site: in the “Alerts and Notices” section.

The Santa Fe National Forest, except for the Rio Chama scenic corridor, was closed to the public at on June 24 due to ongoing drought and fire risks. Hyde Memorial State Park also closed, but N.M. 475, Hyde Park Road, remained open at that time.

USFS will keep fire restrictions in place until conditions improve. The forecast calls for continued hot, dry, and windy weather, with occasional thunderstorms. Predictions for monsoon rains are mixed and uncertain.

The Rio Chama scenic corridor will remain open under Stage II fire restrictions. The corridor encompasses the area one hundred feet from either side of the river, beginning at the Coyote and Cuba boundary south to the boundary near Forest Road 151.

Fenton Lake State Park closed to the public June 4, and will remain closed due to fire conditions in the Jemez Mountains and ongoing work to mop up the Thompson Ridge Fire in the Valles Caldera National Preserve. The 88,900-acre preserve also remains closed to the public, except for the Valle Grande staging area and the gift shop.

The Sandia District closure includes the foothills of the Bernalillo Watershed, the popular hiking/biking area of “The Loop.” The Placitas Open Space is also closed. The Signpost readership faces extremely limited local recreational opportunities.

Carson National Forest is still open, except for areas in the Pecos Wilderness. Much of the Bandelier National Monument remains open because, after the Las Conchas Fire of 2011, there is not much left to burn.

Outdoor enthusiasts looking for public lands that will be open after Monday can visit for updated information on closures. For more information, call 438-5300 or visit:     

Firewise emergency preparedness and evacuation workshop

—Rev. Ken Cuthbertson, Firewise Placitas Steering Committee

Wildfires in New Mexico and Colorado, and the avoidable deaths of two people in Colorado who didn’t evacuate, were the topic of conversation everywhere last month. A Colorado woman’s radio account of firefighters moving furniture off her porch, unhooking and storing her grill’s propane tank while she prepared to evacuate, shocked my friend who works in forestry. “She should have known to do that herself!” she said. “Firefighters normally can’t do that when there is a fire in progress!”

Are you prepared to evacuate if there is short notice to do so?

Firewise Placitas will hold an emergency preparedness and evacuation workshop on July 27, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the Placitas Community Center—41 Camino de Las Huertas. A panel from the Placitas Fire Department, US Forest Service, NM State Forestry, Sandoval County Emergency Management, Back Country Horsemen of NM, and Red Cross will enlighten us about their area of expertise for the first hour followed by Q&A for the second hour. Expect to leave with a better plan, tailored to your family, understanding of the role each agency plays, list of resources, and confidence.

Here are some questions to think about before the workshop:

  • How much cash should you have on hand?
  • How long should your supply of needed medications last?
  • Which important papers should go with you?
  • Why should you always have at least half a tank of gas in your vehicle?
  • How much drinking water should you have in your vehicle at all times?
  • Should you pack pictures of yourself with any animals you evacuate?
  • From which fabric should clothing you pack be made?
  • Who should you check with if you evacuate, so that friends and family can find out you are safe, without overloading vital communication systems?

On a lighter note, look for the Firewise Placitas float in the Placitas Fourth of July Parade.

You can make a difference by helping us make Placitas fire wise. Join us at our monthly gatherings on July 11 and 25, from 10:00 a.m. to noon, in the Upper Room of the Las Placitas Presbyterian Church. Contact or Vicki Gottlieb at 404-8022 for more info.

Rock Snot and Whirling Disease formidable foes

As of June 9, firefighters on the Tres Lagunas Fire were ramping down their fire-suppression efforts and transitioning to “mop up” operations. But before being released from the fire, all water handling equipment, such as engines and water tenders, had to be decontaminated.

A complete and thorough decontamination procedure on the fire ensures that two area aquatic hitchhikers, Rock Snot and Whirling Disease, will not be transferred to other areas by equipment and machinery.

“Rock Snot,” or Didymosphenia geminata, is an invasive (non-native) algae. According to New Mexico Environment and Game and Fish department literature, the algae “form large, ugly growths on stream bottoms. These dense mats harm native and wild trout habitat.”

“Whirling Disease,” caused by a Protozoan parasite that affects the nervous system of trout populations, results in a circular swimming behavior and reduces their mobility and fertility.

Decontamination of machinery and equipment is becoming a procedure that today’s firefighters are adding to their mission.

The equipment is submerged in a bleach solution, then dried. Engines and water tenders draft a bleach solution up through their water systems and flush them out. Smaller pieces, such as fittings, are soaked in buckets of bleach solution.

“Wildland firefighting is simply part of being responsible stewards of the land. Whatever we need to do to fulfill that responsibility, we will do,” concluded John Pierson, Incident Commander for the New Mexico Incident Management Team

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