Letter to the Editor

An slightly abbreviated version of the below letter was sent to the El Defensor Chieftan, the local newspaper.

During the almost nine years I have lived in Socorro County I have found most of the people I have met and with whom I have done business and become friends, to be honest and helpful. Quite frankly, over these past years I have taken for granted that my neighbors, friends, and other members of the community are genuinely nice people.

However, the events of June 10th were a stark reminder of how lucky I am to live in a community where one can rely upon total strangers for help and assistance. As a resident of Escondida, I wanted to express my appreciation for all of the individuals who responded so promptly to the Escondida fire. The work and effort by the paid fire fighters to control the fire and protect property is greatly appreciated. However, the level of professionalism exhibited by the first responders, who were not paid fire fighters but who left their paying jobs to respond to the fire, needs to be recognized, not only by those of us who live in Escondida, but by others in Socorro County who may not realize how lucky they are to know and live among individuals who care so deeply about their community and people they may never have met.

I count moving to Socorro County one of the best decisions I have ever made and am very thankful for all of the friends I have made while living here. I am even more thankful that there are individuals I have never met who are willing to put themselves in harm’s way to ensure my safety. I would like to express my personal thanks to everyone who responded to the Escondida fire and also thank everyone who has stepped up to help out a neighbor or a friend when a hand was needed.

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Out of fire comes . . . Ash

From the 21st:

Chai, the little doeling I bottle raised last summer when Joey unexpectedly and unexplainably died, also snuck into the buck’s pen, though she at least waited until she was six months old. (Yes, a six month old Nigerian Dwarf can squeeze through a cattle panel fence.) She started bagging up during the time she was being housed at my friend’s so I was afraid she would kid before I got her home again. However, that fear, at least, was unrealized and we have all been back long enough to settle into our routine. Shortly after 5 pm today I shut down the computer to go and feed animals. As I approached the doe pen, I saw Chai off behind a tree, looking like she was licking off a kid. Sure enough, she had one kid on the ground.

I fixed up the lambing jugs and moved Chai and her new kid – a buckling of course. He weighs 2 lbs.

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Chai has passed the placenta so one kid will be it for her this year. She has nice teats and I’m looking forward to putting her on the milk stand in a couple of weeks.

Bosque Fire

Google earth map of my location. In the upper right is my house – the dark roof next to the circular drive. My barn is to the left with a gray (almost looks blue) roof. What is labeled 4th Street is really an easement along the south property line which my neighbors use to access their property. If you follow the easement there is a quonset hut at the end. This was converted into a house. Just west is the roof of my neighbor’s sheep pens. At the bottom left is a large rectangular building and just below that is a house. This is the property where the fire started.

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The next two photographs were taken off the website of an Albuquerque news station. The first is a picture of my neighbor’s property to give you an idea of how close the fire came to my property.


And this shows the property where the fire began. FIRE1 It isn’t rotated the same way as Google Earth but you can see what is left of the workshop and house.

Inexplicably, when the fire jumped the fire break, it completely missed my property, and amazingly, when the wind shifted and the fire blew back, it again missed my property. As events unfolded, I did not need to evacuate my livestock. Power was restored within 24 hours and other than the smell of smoke, one could not tell there had been a fire by looking at my property. However, with the information available at the time, I decided leaving when I did was preferable to getting told I had to evacuate at 2 am and having to load animals into the trailer, in the dark, by myself.

Flood Fire Famine and Pestilence

In September 2013 flash floods flooded my property (see this post). Prior to that was the winter where the temperatures dropped to 14 below zero and all the pipes in the pump house froze and broke, leaving me without water from the house well as well as without water from the irrigation well used to water livestock. We have had several years of drought that impacted the farmers and made hay both difficult to find as well as expensive to purchase. I’ve lost countless chickens to coyotes and other predators as well as goats to coyotes and even a mountain lion once. With luck, the fire this year covers the last of the disasters.

Friday afternoon an explosion in a workshop to the southwest of my property caused a fire. Within ten minutes, the fire had spread to my immediate neighbor to the west and within thirty had burned a power pole to the ground cutting off power. No power translated into no water as the well pumps became inoperable.

View from my deck about ten minutes after the explosion.

View from my deck about ten minutes after the explosion.

This community is blessed with wonderful, dedicated volunteer firefighters who immediately responded. However, with limited access to water the priority became trying to prevent homes from burning and barns and other outbuildings were left to burn.

I had headed to my neighbor’s to offer whatever help I could provide when I was first called about the fire.

View from my south fence line - easement heads into my neighbor's property

View from my south fence line – easement heads into my neighbor’s property

(The photographs don’t really show how terrifying the fire looked.)

The neighbor was heading home but still some distance away so I called someone to help with my neighbor’s livestock. That friend swung by my place and picked up my trailer to bring to the neighbors. We were still trying to load livestock when the neighbor got home and made the decision to leave the animals. We took the trailer back to my place and swapped out trucks, hooking the trailer to my truck.

I had bought the stock trailer about four years ago, just because I was concerned about the possibility of fire. However, the SUV I had at the time would only tow the trailer empty – not real useful – and it took me another year or so to find an old Ford F250 which I could afford. The truck is a manual which wouldn’t be an issue except it has a very stiff clutch, making it hard to start and to get out of first gear. I don’t like driving the truck and can usually find all sorts of excuses not to use it. Fortuitously I had tried to start the truck a few weeks ago as I was running out of hay and needed to go pick up a few bales to tide me over until my hay supplier had hay, and discovered that the battery was stone dead. My mechanic (also a wonderful guy) swung by my place one day to take out the battery and bring back a new one. We had then disconnected the battery to ensure it didn’t drain itself again. The timing couldn’t have been better.

Although an evacuation was never ordered, without power and water, and with the increasing risk of fire on my property when the fire jumped the fire break crews put in at my neighbor’s, I decided to trailer as many of my animals that I could. Several friends had already phoned or texted offering any assistance they could provide. One, with a wonderful horse property on the outskirts of town, offered her facilities (and guest room). Another friend, without being asked, texted that he was hitching up a trailer and heading my way. He offered space at his place, but his fencing was less suited to my smaller livestock.

We loaded my trailer and started to load his, but it was getting late and I really wanted to be off the property before dark. I made the decision to leave the sheep, the pigs in the pasture and the chickens. I threw a few bales of hay in the truck bed and loaded the four dogs in the cab. I headed out, followed by my friend with his truck and trailer. By the time we got out my gates it was dark and by the time we got close to the bridge across the Rio Grande the smoke was so thick the only way to know where the road was, was by the lights of the emergency vehicles along the sides and the glowing orange embers in the tree tops which lined the road. I was too busy trying not to stall out the truck as I downshifted to get around emergency vehicles or was forced to stop for one to worry about photographs, but this one was taken by my friend behind me. IMAG0333

Another friend, driving home from Albuquerque, snapped these photos . .. the first is around Belen which is about 45 miles north. 20160610_190546 And this was from the freeway approaching Socorro. 20160610_191137

Photos of the area after the fire to follow. . . .

Snow in June

While I was working this afternoon, the wind started blowing. Not the gale forces we often get but more than a breeze.

Within minutes it looked like snow drifting down.

Cottonwoods are blooming.

Cottonwoods are blooming.