Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Public Safety

Flames silhouette a firefighter working the lightning-caused Bonita Fire in the Carson National Forest about 10 miles northeast of El Rito in Rio Arriba County.
Photo credit: —Southwest Area Incident Management Team

New Mexico nears switch from fire to rainy season

~Signpost Staff

It's that time of the year in New Mexico when fears of fires and floods overlap. As spring shifted to summer, Albuquerque baked in three consecutive days at or above one hundred degrees Fahrenheit. The last time that happened was 17 years ago, according to the National Weather Service.

Meanwhile, earlier in June, the weather service was promoting its Monsoon Awareness program. The monsoon season is considered to begin on June 15 and continue through September.

Hazards the public should be alert to include heavy rains, flash floods, strong winds, dust storms, lightning, and related events like mud and rock slides. The weather service also urged businesses and local governments to review emergency plans and conduct staff training drills.

The upside is well-placed rain-ending fire season.

Wildland firefighters kept busy as dangerous blazes erupted in the Jemez Mountains, in the range west of Rio Rancho, and just across the Santa Fe County line near Golden. Dozens of fires were burning in national forests and elsewhere in New Mexico and Arizona, the largest here being the lightning-caused 17,000-acre Corral Fire burning in the eastern Gila National Forest.

Closures include part of the Continental Divide Trail in the Gila Quemado Ranger District. Numerous smaller fires also were reported and extinguished in Sandoval County with minimal or no damage.

Federal forest and land managers were beginning to impose fire and smoking restrictions, and local restrictions on fireworks and open burning are anticipated. Fireworks of all types are banned at all times in national forests.

This was the status of fires in the local area at Signpost deadline:

Cajete Fire—Began June 15 in ponderosa pine and mixed conifer forest eight miles northeast of Jemez Springs; caused by abandoned campfire; 1,412 acres; 96 percent contained. Residents evacuated but since returned with no homes reported lost. All businesses and recreation sites open except Jemez Falls and Redondo campgrounds.

Encino Fire—Began June 18 at Northern and Encino roads, Rio Rancho. Charred 1,278 acres, 64 percent contained, no structures threatened. Cause unknown.

Golden Fire—Began June 21 in San Pedro Mountains near Golden; human caused; eighty percent contained; held to five acres by rapid ground and air attack. Residents of 150 homes evacuated but since returned.

Information on major fires with links to fire restrictions, smoke information, and online updates can be found at the interagency website and the state website

Escape investigations cite flaws in Sandoval County jail operations

~Bill Diven

Procedural errors, and wrongly classifying an alleged murderer as a minimum security risk, led to the May 5 escape of two inmates from the Sandoval County Detention Center, according to internal and external investigations.

As a result, booking officers have undergone refresher training and there is a regular retraining schedule now in place. The same is happening for officers responsible for inspecting areas of the jail and for monitoring the movement of inmates. A statement released by the county also indicates at least two officers face possible disciplinary action.

The investigations within SCDC, done by an outside consultant, found booking officers failed to spot murder and other charges against Paul Garcia pending in Bernalillo County. Instead, when he was transferred to SCDC, his security status was based on lesser charges pending here.

Investigators also discovered that the corrections officers weren't following polices for inspecting recreation areas and monitoring inmates. Garcia and Blake McPherson escaped through a hole in the fence of a recreation yard allowing them to reach the jail roof and eventually the street.

Their absence wasn't noticed until a head count about two hours after the 8:45 p.m. escape. McPherson was recaptured in Albuquerque the next morning and McPherson in Los Lunas two days after the escape.

McPherson and a female companion face murder and other charges related to the theft of a commercial van left running in an Albuquerque driveway. The couple, with the woman believed to be at the wheel, allegedly sped through a red light, crashing broadside into a car, killing a woman and her 14-year-old daughter.

Placitas Fourth of July parade floats by

The annual Placitas Fourth of July Parade will spring into action, once again, on Tuesday, July 4, starting at 11:00 a.m. Horses, floats, bicyclists, marchers, and decorated cars are invited to join local fire department and emergency medical services vehicles and others on a trip east on Highway 165 from Placitas Heights through the Village of Placitas. Parade participants should line up in front of Placitas Heights at 10:00 a.m. No registration is necessary to be in the parade. The public is welcome to bring camp chairs and coolers and line the streets along the parade’s path to enjoy this lively community event.

Sandoval County fire/fireworks restrictions

On June 22, the Sandoval County Fire Department issued a total burn ban for all unincorporated areas of Sandoval County. Due to dry conditions, this ban includes all open burning, campfires, and fireworks.

The City of Rio Rancho prohibits fireworks that go higher than ten feet and are louder than a cap gun. Igniting fireworks in the Rio Grande Bosque is prohibited at all times. Fireworks can start a fire and potentially damage open spaces homes and other property. Sparks can ignite grasses, weeds, and trees. Improper use of fireworks is punishable by fines and jail time.

Rio Rancho hosts fireworks show

The City of Rio Rancho will be hosting a free ‘Fireworks Extravaganza’ event at Loma Colorado Park, 735 Loma Colorado Boulevard, on July 4. Live music will begin at 6:00 p.m. and the fireworks show will start at approximately 9:00 p.m. Blankets and coolers are permitted and food vendors will be on-site. No glass or alcoholic beverages are allowed.

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