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Local News

  • 2 killed in crash of small plane in Midland

    MIDLAND, Texas (AP) — A racehorse trainer from Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico and his son were killed when the single-engine airplane they were flying crashed shortly after takeoff in Midland.

    In a statement Friday, Ruidoso Downs identified the dead as trainer John M. Cooper and his 16-year-old son, Gavyn Cooper.

    The Federal Aviation Administration says the Cirrus SR22 aircraft had just taken off from Midland International Airport about 7:20 p.m. Thursday and was banking left when it crashed and burned.

    No cause for the crash was immediately determined, and the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.

  • Wildfire burns empty Boy Scouts' buildings in dry New Mexico

    CIMARRON, N.M. (AP) — A wildfire raced across a swath of tinder-dry forest in northeastern New Mexico on Friday, sending up a thick plume of smoke that forced residents to flee their homes as heat and wind threatened to drive the flames.

    The blaze destroyed about a dozen empty buildings on the Boy Scouts' storied Philmont Ranch and threatened nearly 300 homes, officials say. The flames were first reported Thursday and ballooned quickly in a part of New Mexico hardest hit by a severe drought gripping the American Southwest.

    More than 60 percent of the U.S. West is experiencing some level of drought, the latest federal drought maps show, forcing national forests and other public lands to close because of escalating fire danger. The area where Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado meet is at the center of a large patch of exceptional drought.

    Dry, windy and warm weather was expected to make conditions worse as the New Mexico fire burned on state and private land, including part of the Boy Scouts' ranch, state forestry spokeswoman Wendy Mason said. Estimates put the blaze at more than 25 square miles (66 square kilometers). Its cause isn't known.

    Officials say no scouts were at the ranch and all staff members were accounted for. Employees who live in the nearby community of Cimarron were allowed to leave to care for their families.

  • U.S. Forest service closes 1.5 million acre forest to visitors

    As the severest drought conditions in recent memory tightens its grip on the northern New Mexico region, county and federal officials are shutting New Mexicans out of large portions of public lands in an effort to prevent wildfires.

    The Los Alamos Fire Department closed all unpaved trail systems within the county beginning today.

    Closures include Camp May. The only exceptions are Canyon Rim Trail, La Mesa Trail and the paved access to Overlook Point in White Rock.

    “Under current conditions, any fire could cause a catastrophic event. With such a dangerously high fire risk, the County wishes to take every precaution to protect our natural and cultural resources, and asks the public to cooperate with the new restrictions,” a statement from the Los Alamos Fire Department said.

    The U.S. Forest Service declared the Santa Fe National Forest, all 1.5 million acres of it, off limits to the public Thursday.

    “We are at historic levels for our indices we use for fire risk. We are at or above our 10-year maximums we use across the forest,” said U.S. Forest Service Supervisor James Melonas.

    Campgrounds, hiking trails, and all other types of forest recreation spots and roads are closed to the public.

  • Free fishing day Saturday in N.M.

    SANTA FE – Anglers can fish for free in New Mexico Saturday as the state celebrates National Boating and Fishing Week.
    Anyone can fish for free in public fishing waters throughout the state that day, but everyone must observe bag limits and all other rules and regulations.

    “This is a great time to take your family fishing and teach them a skill that will provide a lifetime of enjoyment,” said Kevin Holladay, conservation education coordinator for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.

    Several fishing spots across the state will offer special opportunities Saturday.

    Monastery Lake in Pecos Canyon: The second annual Fishing Expo at Monastery Lake in will be from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. This family friendly, alcohol-free fishing derby will have booths, exhibits and over $1,000 in prizes for kids who catch tagged fish. This expo will have a food truck, free fly-casting lessons from Truchas Chapter of Trout

    Unlimited, aquatic bugs under microscopes to view, deejay services by Sider Esquibel, wildlife hides and skull table, spin-casting games for the kids and live birds of prey in the afternoon presented by the Santa Fe Raptor Center.

  • School board moves ahead on building projects

    The Los Alamos School Board made decisions during its monthly work session that will advance two separate construction projects within the district.

    The first vote during the session, held May 24 at Piñon Elementary School in White Rock, was to approve the final contract for the Barranca Mesa building project. The second was to approve selection of an architect for a project at Mountain Elementary School.

    Lisa Montoya, the assistant superintendent for finance and operations, said meetings were held the previous day on the Barranca project, which is on schedule for a June 4 start.

    “We met with Barranca folks to finalize everything,” she said. “We went through the add alternates and set tentative dates for weekly meetings just to make sure we were all on the same page.”

    Albuquerque’s Bradbury Stamm Construction was hired for the Barranca project and is working with a budget of $14, 240,100, which includes items listed as add alternates.

    “It includes everything,” Montoya said. “So we are well within the budget we had to work with.”

    Board member Ellen Ben-Naim asked Montoya if it were possible to add clauses in the district’s building contracts in the future that would compensate accordingly for early or late finishes.

  • LA mental health counselor arrested for domestic battery

    BY JILL McLAUGHLIN AND TRIS DEROMA
    Los Alamos Monitor

    A Los Alamos child, adult and family counselor who worked with middle and high school students in 2015 as a youth resource advocate for the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board was arrested Saturday on multiple charges related to domestic battery.

    Robert Ward, of Santa Fe, was booked into the Santa Fe Adult Detention Facility in at 5:03 a.m. Saturday.
    Ward worked with Los Alamos High School students and families for JJAB but resigned in early 2016, according to minutes of a March 3, 2016 meeting of the Los Alamos Community Health Council.

    He is now listed as a provider on the Los Alamos Mental Health Access Project. He also worked for an undetermined period at a Los Alamos County psychiatry practice as a counselor.

    Ward’s charges include aggravated battery of a household member and conspiracy of aggravated battery of a household member, both are third offenses; false imprisonment and interference with communications. Bond was denied for the false imprisonment charge.

  • Pentagon to take over security clearance checks

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Defense Department is poised to take over background investigations for the federal government, using increased automation and high-tech analysis to tighten controls and tackle an enormous backlog of workers waiting for security clearances, according to U.S. officials.

    The change aims to fix a system whose weaknesses were exposed by the case of a Navy contractor who gunned down a dozen people at Washington's Navy Yard in 2013. He was able to maintain a security clearance despite concerns about his mental health and an arrest that investigators never reviewed.

    Problems had earlier surfaced with former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who now lives in Russia to avoid charges for disclosing classified material, and Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning, who went to prison for leaking classified documents, triggering calls to update the antiquated system to include more frequent criminal and financial checks of workers who have security clearances.

  • The Latest: Boy Scouts ranch: Fire destroys 12 structures

    EAGLE NEST, N.M. (AP) — Authorities say a wildfire burning in a forested area of northeastern New Mexico is threatening nearly 300 homes.

    The blaze on Friday had charred more than 25 square miles (66 square kilometers) since igniting a day earlier. The flames were spreading quickly through grasslands and ponderosa pine thanks to hot, dry and windy conditions.

    The communities of Ute Park and Cimarron have been evacuated. Roads are closed throughout the area. Officials have reported that 12 empty buildings at the Boy Scouts' Philmont Ranch have been burned.

    Forecasters say there's little relief expected and that the massive smoke plume generated by the Ute Park Fire has risen thousands of feet into the air.

    12:10 p.m.

    Gusty winds are fanning a wildfire that has burned 38 square miles of forest in western New Mexico, blowing embers past containment lines and starting spot fires.

    Officials report there are containment lines around 34 percent of the fire as of Friday but say firefighters are being challenged by having to both stop growth of the main fire while patrolling for spot fires.

    The human-caused fire started May 22 and is east of Reserve on the Gila National Forest.

    Gusty winds are expected to continue through Friday evening as relative humidity remains at low levels.

  • Fee increases planned for Bandelier National Monument

    LOS ALAMOS (AP) — Bandelier National Monument is raising its vehicle and entrance fees.

    The National Park Service says starting June 1 that entrance fees will be $15 per person. The new vehicle fee is $25, while the Bandelier annual park pass will be $45.

    Each fee change represents a $5 increase in cost.

    Bandelier is among more than 100 National Park Service sites that charge an entrance fee. Three hundred have no entrance fee.

    Bandelier National Monument features canyon trails, wooded hikes and ancient dwellings that are embedded into rocky cliffs.

    The fee changes at Bandelier is set to go into effect the same day that access to backcountry at the monument and two other National Park Service sites in the state will be suspended amid severe drought and heightened concerns over potential fire dangers.
     

  • Bandelier National Park, Valles Caldera to close for fire restrictions

    Fire danger in the region has prompted park officials to close all backcountry areas of Bandelier National Monument and Valles Caldera National Preserve starting after midnight Thursday.

    The area is now under stage 3 fire restrictions.

    The main public areas of each national park will remain open, officials said Thursday.

    Fire officials said the restrictions are being put in place to help the National Park Service provide for public safety and reduce fire risk.

    Bandelier National Monument will close all wilderness and backcountry areas. Areas that will remain open include the Bandelier Visitor Center in Frijoles Canyon, Ponderosa and Juniper Campgrounds, Frijoles Canyon from Alcove House to the Upper Falls, Tsankawi, Frey Trail, Tyuonyi Overlook Trail and Burnt Mesa Trail.

    Valles Caldera National Preserve will close access to its backcountry and suspend all fishing, equestrian, hiking and biking activities. The Valle Grande entrance station and bookstore will remain open to the public, and ranger-led tours and hikes will be offered in the park’s cabin district.

    Several criteria are used to determine when to implement fire restrictions, including fire activity levels, current and predicted weather, fuel moisture, and the availability of firefighting resources.