Selfless action rules the day as the Dog Head Fire grows

11 p.m. An update from Torrance County Manager Javier Sanchez put the size of the Dog Head Fire at 16,000 acres, at 9 p.m. Meanwhile, evacuation continued today as shelters in Estancia and Tijeras bustled with activity.

A visit to the shelter set up in Estancia at the Torrance County Fairgrounds this evening found the shelter almost half full according to Cheryl Nigg of CERT, the Community Emergency Response Team, which is manning it around the clock until the emergency is past. Nigg’s own home is on Aceves Road, and she said she was “90 percent sure” that it was destroyed by the blaze.

Concerns about her own home have not kept Nigg from pitching in during the crisis. After getting her animals to safety, she has been at the shelter in Estancia since Tuesday, when the fire broke out.

“I’d do it again,” Nigg said simply, saying it was better than waiting around wringing her hands. “You can give back. It’s what you do.”

She said she first got involved with CERT because after the last big fire in the Manzanos, she realized there wasn’t a plan in place for large animals and livestock.

Nigg said the Torrance County Fairgrounds are well-suited to being a shelter for animals, with large shaded enclosures full of different-sized pens. At 8 p.m. today, the shelter was about half full, she said, with over 100 cows, “lots of goats,” horses, sheep, cats and dogs.

CERT volunteer Dale Wells, with Sophie. Photo by Leota Harriman.

CERT volunteer Dale Wells, with Sophie. Photo by Leota Harriman.

About 10 CERT volunteers are trading off time at the shelter so that somebody is there around the clock, meaning people can leave their animals and tend to other tasks of evacuation. A system is in place to make sure animals, along with leashes, food, or other belongings, are marked for ownership.

Donations of pet food, water and hay poured in today as word got out that they were needed. Nigg said the list of donations sought for the shelter is: bales of hay and/or grass; feed sacks of pellets, grain, corn, oats, and senior feed; plastic buckets with handles; dog and cat food; straw or shavings; tarps; trash bags; garden hoses; scrub brushes; small clean towels; bleach; plastic sheeting; duct tape; coffee and other drinks, including water; soda and juice, fresh fruit and vegetables; fresh baked items; paper plates and other supplies; toilet paper; batteries and copy paper.

Another shelter is set up at Los Vecinos Community Center in Tijeras, this one run by the Red Cross in cooperation with the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department.

Tijeras Mayor Gloria Chavez said the village is opening the senior center so people can take showers.

Local business owner Charlie Pedroncelli is taking donations of towels, shampoo, conditioner and other personal items to help with that effort.

Pedroncelli said he also has land where people can quarter horses if need be. He’s coordinating with the Village and the Red Cross. “We’re trying to do whatever we can,” he said, adding, “Whatever it takes.” To reach Pedroncelli, call 505-362-6427.

Chavez said people can call Diane Klaus for updated information at 505-313-1801. The senior center will be available for showers through the weekend, at least, she said.

Moriarty Mayor Ted Hart today drove donations, including stock tanks donated by Harts Hardware, which he owns, to help with horses quartered and needing water.

20160616_203431

The view headed east on Highway 55 west of Estancia at sunset. Photo by Leota Harriman.

Torrance County Manager Joy Ansley, Torrance County Fire Chief Jason Trumbull, and Torrance County Sheriff Heath White have been on the job since the crisis started, Hart said. “I want people to know how hard they are working for this county, he said.

Meanwhile, hundreds of firefighters, from around New Mexico and the nation, have poured in to launch an all-out assault on the fire as it has headed toward residential areas in the worst possible conditions, hot and windy. A Red Flag warning was issued today from 1 to 9 p.m. and temperatures soared to 90 degrees.

The forecast for Friday is even hotter.