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Meeting features speakers advising how to prepare for fire

By Kathy Anderson

Silver City Neighborhood Alliance

The fire prep program Tyrone VFD Chief Roger Groves put together April 10 was excellent.  Jean Fortenberry of Regional Dispatch spoke of updates for the Reverse Notification program, Emergency Management Officer Gilbert Helton of Grant Cty spoke of evacuation, and Lt. Aric Ray of the Silver City Fire Department showed a video on Quail Ridge and how vicious fire can be.

Tonya Vowles, New Mexico Forestry's Special Projects manager spoke of making assessments of defensible space and U.S. Forest Service Fire Prevention expert Ellen Brown spoke of the work communities must do to avoid loss of life when fire comes.  There were 45 folks, including fire fighters, general public and Boy and Cub Scouts.

Fortenberry said Reverse Notification of emergencies is available to anyone with a land line, a cell phone or a smart phone.  You can receive voice and text messages by registering thru local websites.  "Code Red" takes over the program April 26, offering better services than the prior provider.

Mr. Helton, Grant Cty's Emergency Management Officer, said the County looks on its emergency service role as "all hazard," but it currently has no evacuation center due to Conference Center construction.  All of the County's evacuation supplies are stored inside.  Mr. Helton said the County had "10 carts," each with 50 cots and other goods.  There is no food or water.  

Tyrone's VFD Chief Roger Groves said he had offered the Tyrone Community Center to Grant County as an evacuation site shortly after Quail Ridge, but that the County had never responded.  He added that the privately-owned Mercantile Center's parking lot is also available to residents.  Helton said he would look into a Memorandum of Understanding.

The SCNA announced that folks who are evacuated this summer should take pets with them, including horses.  Heidi Sexton, of the Local Emergency Planning Committee and the High Desert Humane Society said at a recent LEPC meeting they would pick up animals from the evacuation location.  

Doug Dexter, of Back Country Horsemen, told me they were working on a horse shelter network.  The HDHS has 100 animal crates.  The rest they have were borrowed by Catron County last year, which has yet to return them.

Lt. Aric Ray's video of Quail Ridge was incredibly impressive, showing how impossible it is to fight urban-wildland fire in high wind.  Vowles, of NM Forestry, said she was available to do defensible space assessments (Kathy's note:  Gary Benavidez used to do these for residents, but Grant Cty has yet to replace him.  They need an experienced manager with both wildland & structural suppression training.).  Vowles also spoke of 'Ready, Set Go' bags to take in case of evacuation.

Brown, with 23 years experience in doing defensible space assessments and who has lost firefighter friends in fires, showed a video that a community created after one of their members, a high school sophomore, died in wildfire, not far from the neighborhood's fire station.  

Ellen stressed the crucial importance of having communities work together to avoid loss of life—and for families to have many back-up plans on how to evacuate when fire comes.

The SCNA is offering logistical support to neighborhoods who'd like to come together to work on fire preparedness.  They have contact data for all the speakers above.  Email them at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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