‘Limited re-entry’ to some evacuation zones

Roads will open at 8 a.m. with restrictions

“Limited re-entry” to some areas evacuated due to the Dog Head Fire will start at 8 a.m. tomorrow. That’s according to Torrance County Sheriff Heath White and Lt. Steven Aragon of the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department.

The two departments are working with their respective emergency managers along with a variety of agencies and jurisdictions responding to the fire.

The meeting was held at the Moriarty Civic Center, and Gov. Susana Martinez reiterated that limited re-entry would be begin in the morning.

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Gov. Susana Martinez addressing residents at the Moriarty Civic Center. Photo by Leota Harriman.

Both PNM and CNMEC electric utilities will be restoring power to some affected areas starting around 5 a.m. PNM spokeswoman Lela Hunt said that re-energization of the power lines would be “phased, deliberate, and slow.”

Anyone with back-up generators running must shut them down by 6 a.m., Hunt said, because they pose a serious risk of injury if they are still running when the power lines are re-energized.

Jason Clausen of the Southwest Incident Command Type 1 team now in charge of firefighting efforts gave an update.

He said there are 950 fire personnel working on the effort. The fire is still at 9 percent containment, but Clausen said he expected that containment number to increase tonight when they do an infrared flyover to check its status.

Clausen said the past two days have been “one hundred percent offense, and no defense.” He described the effort as “values driven, full suppression and direct tacticts.”

Full suppression means crews will not be leaving until the fire is put out, he said. Values driven means that first priority is given to protecting people, homes, cultural resources and infrastructure.

A map of the fire at the event was densely dotted with hot spots, which Clausen said crews are focusing on as they “mop up.”

He said the team is doing longer-term planning, too, in case conditions change, with plans in place to protect the homes north and east of the fire. “We’re winning this one,” Clausen said.

Martinez said that crews are here from Arizona, North and South Dakota, California, Montana, Washington, Oklahoma, Texas and Mexico, “all fighting the fire right here,” to applause from the audience. The crowd was smaller and more subdued than those at previous informational meetings and the tone was optimistic.

Re-entry to some parts of the evacuated area will start at 8 a.m., with restrictions. All access to the area will be closed except for the intersection at Highways 337 and 55, where the Torrance County Sheriff’s command center is set up.

Those seeking to enter the evacuated zone must have identification proving they live in the area, Torrance County Sheriff Heath White said. That’s to “make sure you are supposed to be in there,” he said.

Deputies, along with State Police and the National Guard will continue heavy patrols, and the speed limit is being lowered to 15 miles per hour.

“We’re opening all the way to La Para Road,” White said.

On the north side of the fire, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Lt. Steven Aragon said the area south to Raquel Road in Escabosa is being opened. Roadblocks will become ID checkpoints as in Torrance County to restrict access to residents.

Roadblocks will be in place at Jesse James, Pohl Road and Moriarty Road, Aragon said.

The state Emergency Management Director, Jay Mitchell, said the state will be getting help from FEMA, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to assess damage to property so people can get the process moving more quickly.

Mitchell also said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will help with flooding risk, and said the state would be part of rehabilitation of the land and protection of the watershed.

Local elected officials Bernalillo County Commissioner Wayne Johnson, Torrance County Commissioner LeRoy Candelaria, and Sen. Ted Barela have been working behind the scenes from the beginning.

All three had positive works for the complex and multi-jurisdictional effort the fight against the fire has been.

Johnson urged caution, saying that conditions could easily change. Candelaria also urged residents to be patient with getting back to their homes. “The fire can turn in a second,” he said.

Barela said he is happy that the effort has been so successful so far, but said people should not be complacent.