Residents staying in Mora are running out of food, official says

Snow wasn’t enough to put out the massive wildfires up north

By: - April 26, 2022 5:10 am

State Road 161 north of Las Vegas, pictured Sat. April 23, 2022. The United States Forest Service on Thursday announced results of a review of prescribed burns, following the escape of a burn here that ultimately grew to the biggest in state history. (Photo by Patrick Lohmann / Source NM)

ESPAÑOLA VALLEY — Mother Nature showed some sympathy to the people of Northern New Mexico by dropping a smattering of snow over massive wildfires, sparing villages and giving fire crews some leverage in slowing the massive Calf Canyon-Hermits Peak fire.

Nearby, the Cooks Peak fire north of Ocate had consumed another 52,000 acres and was only 9% contained Monday morning.

But it didn’t make too much of a dent in extinguishing the flames up north, and cities and villages remain under mandatory evacuation orders, with more issued Monday. The Calf Canyon and Hermits Peak fire had burned more than 56,000 acres by Monday morning and only 12% of it was contained. 

“It wasn’t enough,” said Mora County Commissioner Veronica Serna. “It was an exciting blessing for a moment, but once the moisture dries up the fire will pick up again.” 

The snow that fell in Mora County is melting, and officials are worried about the weather forecast that is predicting more wind in the area by the end of the week. 

Sunday afternoon, state fire officials estimated that the entire village of Mora would be destroyed by the fire. An estimated 300 people remained despite the mandatory evacuation order. 

Due to the snow, Serna was able to visit those people this morning with breakfast from Teresa’s Tamales. The restaurant is located in Cleveland, N.M., a few miles north of Mora proper but within the fire zone. 

“We have to stay and help out,” said owner Teresa Olivas. “We are feeding the firefighters, police and the people that are staying. We have to.” 

Food is becoming an issue for the people that are choosing to stay. One, there isn’t a grocery store nearby, and the gas stations that do sell food are closed. Mora County residents shop in Las Vegas, Taos or Española. But if they go out to get supplies, those choosing to stay won’t be allowed back through a New Mexico State Police blockade, Serna said. 

“They thought the snow would help, but it won’t, and it’s so smokey,” she said Monday evening moments before heading into the heart of the fire zone to deliver dinner for residents.

Along with the Mora County Sheriff’s Office, Serna and Olivas are committed to feeding the community breakfast and dinner as long as they can. 

“They have run out of groceries,” Serna said. “All of our resources are shut down.”

The fire is now also receiving federal help to combat the flames and create a barrier away from the homes and the watershed in the area. The two fires combined this weekend when wind conditions hit historic levels. 

The state issued orders for full evacuations

In San Miguel County: Big Pine, Canovas Canyon, Porvenir Canyon, El Porvenir, Lower Canyon Road, Gallinas, Trout Springs, San Ignacio, Lone Pine Mesa,  Chavez, Canoncito, Pendaries Village, Pendaries Valley East, Rociada, Upper Rociada, and Tierra Monte Canyon, La Canada, Las Tusas, and Manuelitas.

In Mora County: Penasco Blanco, South Carmen, Rito Cebolla, Ledoux, Upper Morphy, Santiago Creek, Abuelo, Puertocito, Buena Vista, Mora, La Cueva, El Alto, Rainville, and Guadalupita.

—Information up-to-date as of Monday, April 25, at 5:30 p.m. 

The phone number for fire information is 505-356-2636

The email address is [email protected]

Fire information will continue to be posted on Inciweb, the SFNF Facebook and Twitter, SFNF website, and New Mexico Fire Information website.

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Shaun Griswold
Shaun Griswold

Shaun Griswold is a journalist in Albuquerque. He is a citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna, and his ancestry also includes Jemez and Zuni on the maternal side of his family. He grew up in Albuquerque and Gallup. He brings a decade of print and broadcast news experience. Shaun reports on issues important to Native Americans in urban and tribal communities throughout the state, including education and child welfare.