The City of Santa Fe on Saturday, working with the Red Cross, “activated” the Genoveva Chavez Community Center to serve, if necessary, as a temporary shelter for evacuees from fires burning in the state.
“We don’t know who’s going to show, but we’re at least preparing for at least 500 people,” Mayor Alan Webber told SFR, who was on site with the city’s Emergency Manager Brian Williams and City Manager John Blair. As of Sunday afternoon, the center remained in standby mode, Blair told SFR, with Red Cross preparing the area. No donations will be accepted at the center.
“What I’ve told our staff is that without any consideration for cost right now, we want to help as many people as we can,” Blair told SFR. “And that is the priority…if this were happening to us, we’d expect that sort of help and we need to be able to help anybody else who needs it.”
Williams told SFR the “mobilization” at GC3 was “contingency planning” aimed “more at Los Alamos than Las Vegas,” in the event that an evacuation center is needed for those impacted by the Cerro Pelado Fire, burning in the East Jemez mountains.
As of 8 am today, all of Los Alamos County and Los Alamos National Laboratory were moving into the “set” phase of ready, set, go. As of last night, the Cerro Pelado Fire had grown to more than 37,425 acres, 11% containment and was burning about 3.5 miles from the lab and 7 miles from Los Alamos.
A LANL news release emphasized the “set” status was a precautionary measure; the lab also put all “non-mission essential employees” on maximum telework status. Los Alamos County has also moved to maximum telework and has closed non-essential facilities, such as the libraries and recreational facilities.
“This is not an emergency,” Los Alamos Fire Chief Troy Hughes said in a statement. “We just want people to get set.”
Evacuation statuses also changed yesterday on the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire, which as of this morning had grown to more than 189,767 acres, but also had increased containment at 43%.
In Taos County, the communities of Rock Wall, Las Mochas, Sipapu, Vadito, Placita, and Rio Pueblo were placed into ready status yesterday and Angostura was placed into set status. Numerous communities in San Miguel and Mora counties were placed into go status yesterday, as firefighters battled against winds reaching close to 60mph in some places.
Fire and law enforcement officials during last night’s briefing pleaded with residents in both counties who have not evacuated “go” areas to do so now, as the fire jumped NM 518, putting Holman, Chacon and Guadalupita at risk.
“That piece is established,” Operations Section Chief Todd Abel said. “Established to us means it is in the drainage, in the canyons. Our firefighters can not engage that with the winds that are going on right now…this fire is moving rapidly towards Chacon and Guadalupita south. I can’t stress that enough. There are a lot of people still in there. The smoke gets there and it’s so thick, you can’t see, you can’t drive.… we’re asking people if you have not left, it’s time to leave.”
Mora County Undersheriff Americk Padilla said law enforcement had made three visits in some cases to residents who had not evacuated areas under mandatory evacuation orders.
“There’s only so much we can do and there’s only so much information we can provide to the community,” he said. “We need to work together, we need to work as a team to get through this, and that’s the only way we’re going to get through this.”
Padilla and others stressed that people refusing to leave not only were putting themselves in danger, but also firefighters and law enforcement.
“When we have to get back out there, that takes away from all these other areas that have been evacuated,” Padilla said. “I understand…that’s our livelihood, that’s our home, that’s my backyard, my front yard, that’s all I know and a lot of you guys, that’s all you know. I understand you guys want to protect that ’til the end. But safety is my number one priority…I’d rather see Mr. Padilla…evacuate because I can’t make another Mr. Padilla, but I can get out there and help you rebuild that house you guys lost. That I could do.”