The Dog Head Fire is out. Thank goodness. Still, for many people south of Oak Flats and north of Manzano, recovery is grueling and very frustrating. Even houses saved by firefighters and other emergency responders may still be lost as homes for residents who survived the blaze itself.

Poles that carried electricity until mid-June are there, charred. New poles go up that will eventually carry electricity. But, here in mid-September, no lines carry juice between many of those poles.

Washed out driveways with a 10 to 15 percent slope are exhausting and treacherous to navigate for a senior using a walker.

Fences and gates that have been blistered, charred, crumpled, or knocked askew don’t do their job. Neither do intact fences, if the ground has washed out underneath. Pets and livestock run or wander off. Intruders (four or two-legged) can make their way over, through or under.

Roadways alternately flood, become rinks of slick mud, and then dry hard and deep-rutted. This is not what residents and work crews need when they must bring in supplies or equipment or haul off debris and trash. Culvert openings buried a foot under muck don’t drain.

Those lakes and ponds along Aceves Road are ‘pretty,’ except that they are not supposed to be there. Nor are the mosquitoes breeding in acres of standing water during this season of Zika.

No lives were lost. Long-term efforts spearheaded or coordinated by agencies will eventually help the most obviously and devastatingly impacted. Yet, it is late September. There’s a lot to do before hard freeze and packed snow. That work can’t be put off while relief applications get tweaked and re-reviewed.

Consider home heating. Electric. No power. Wood. A laundry list of complications face families who depend upon wood for heat (and income). Propane. Is that scorched tank still safe to use? Does a household have cash for the deposit on a replacement? Will delivery trucks get in over these roads the week after Christmas?

Then there’s uneasiness about the safety of drinking water. Testing. If its not being done, why not? If it is, why don’t we hear the results? Is there reason to be nervous about releases of toxic who-knows-what into the runoff?

What contractors and tradesmen are fair and knowledgeable to handle post-fire and flood projects? Although there are no reports of parasitic fire-chasing crews trolling 337, there have been issues.

The list of questions, issues and concerns sometimes seems to grow longer, not shorter, with each passing week. Part of local frustration is with lack of communication, slow sharing of information, uncertainty about who has information, and confusing or seemingly conflicting information.

On Wednesday, Sept. 28, at 5:30 p.m., people affected by the ‘current situation’ are encouraged to gather at Ten Points General Store. Bring questions and concerns. Bring your experiences, with the problems you have encountered. Just as importantly, bring the things you’ve discovered that seem to work. Bring your ideas and recommendations.

These gatherings will be held weekly, until the need diminishes. This can be an informal vehicle for residents to exchange information. Although informal, this will be different from over-the-fence or at-the-mailbox conversation in at least one way. Every issue or idea or question that comes up will be noted, with a summary prepared.

Those summaries will appear in each weekly issue of The Independent and on the Independent’s website as a special series. They will be sent to other local media. They will go into a binder made available to local public libraries and at other locations. They will be mailed or emailed to county, state and federal elected officials whose districts include the impact area. They will be made available to agencies with active roles in Dog Head rehabilitation.

At the same time, agencies and inter-agency groups with Dog Head Fire responsibilities will have open invitations and encouragement to attend, to listen to residents, and to provide weekly information updates to the people who live with Dog Head’s continuing current situation. Those which respond will be noted, as will those which do not.

Dog Head has been declared controlled. Amen. Out, but far from over.

For additional information, contact Tom Stuart at 505-286-2218 or, or Ernest Gonzales at 505-281-3091.

Leota Harriman
Leota Harriman

Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at