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Labor shortage compounds federal firefighters' staffing woes
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Firefighter groups are applauding steps taken by the Biden administration this week to temporarily raise wages for the men and women on the front lines of the nation's largest wildfires. But they say the temporary wage hikes won't be enough to combat staffing problems, as federal agencies compete with local fire departments and a tight labor market. The National Interagency Fire Center has grown less able to fill crew mobilization orders as climate change makes the U.S. West hotter, drier and more prone to wildfires. Labor experts, firefighter advocates and federal officials say the land management agencies that employ federal firefighters must do more to keep pace and compete with other fire departments and industries.
Massive New Mexico blaze blamed on miscalculations, errors
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — U.S. Forest Service employees made multiple miscalculations, used inaccurate models and underestimated how dry conditions were, causing a planned burn to reduce the threat of wildfires to turn into the largest blaze in New Mexico's recorded history. The agency on Tuesday released the findings of an investigation into a fire that ultimately displaced thousands of people and destroyed hundreds of homes. It also forced a pause on the agency's prescribed fire operations nationwide. Anger and frustration have been simmering among residents and elected officials. The blaze has charred more than 533 square miles, and forecasters are warning of post-fire flooding threats amid summer rains.
Tribal leaders and feds reestablish Bears Ears Commission
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Federal officials and tribal nations have formally reestablished a commission to jointly govern the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. The agreement signed Saturday was previously set forth by the Obama administration in 2016. It marks one of the first times a national monument will be jointly managed by federal agencies and Native American tribes. The agreement was altered to the chagrin of tribal officials when President Donald Trump downsized the monument in 2017. The five nations are the Hopi, Navajo Nation, the Pueblo of Zuni, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation.
Arizona fires sweep land rich with ancient sites, artifacts
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Wildfires in northern Arizona are crossing land rich with signs of human existence through centuries. The vast landscape marked by rugged mountains, high desert and towering ponderosa pines is dense with archaeological sites and artifacts. As efforts to fight wildfires advance, crews are doing more to avoid or minimize damage from bulldozers and other modern-day firefighting tools. Archaeologists say those efforts ensure ancient tools and dwellings unique to the arid U.S. Southwest are protected for future generations. Navajo archaeologist Jason Nez says the work also helps educate those on the fire line about the continued presence of Indigenous peoples.
Parents of Albuquerque kids injured in crash sue car driver
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The parents of three children injured in the crash involving an Albuquerque Public Schools bus four months ago have filed a lawsuit against the driver of the speeding car involved and his insurance company. The Albuquerque Journal reported Sunday that the 2nd Judicial District Court suit was filed on behalf of parents of two girls and a boy – identified only by their initials – who were passengers on the school bus. The Feb. 23 crash sent five people to the hospital. Two middle school students suffered serious injuries including a broken pelvis and a broken femur that required surgery. Police allege the 50-year-old driver of the car involved in the crash was racing at high speed with another vehicle at the time and collided with the bus.
Albuquerque police fatally shoot man who refused to drop gun
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M, (AP) — Authorities say Albuquerque police officers have fatally shot a man after he told them he had a gun and refused several orders to drop it. Police Chief Harold Medina says the shooting occurred around 3:30 a.m. Sunday. He says investigators have retrieved what appears to be an airsoft gun from the scene and noted that the shooting appears to be a so-called suicide by cop. According to police, a vehicle approached them and the man inside said he had a gun and the officers were going to have to shoot him. Medina says the police gave the man several commands to drop the weapon but he did not and shots were eventually fired. The man's name hasn't been released yet.
Building anger in rural New Mexico erupts in election crisis
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Behind the raw public frustration and anger over election security that has played out this week in New Mexico was a hint of something deeper — a growing divide between the state's Democratic power structure and conservative rural residents who feel their way of life is under attack. In the state's vast, rural stretches, frustration over voting and political representation has been building for years. Residents have felt marginalized and overrun by government decisions that have placed limits on their livelihoods. Tensions have been mounting for years as Democrats in New Mexico have consolidated control over every statewide office and the Supreme Court.
Screams, threats as New Mexico counties certify vote
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Commissioners in all New Mexico counties have certified the results from their primary election, after one county had sparked a standoff over election integrity that was fueled by conspiracy theories about the security of voting equipment. Otero County commissioners opted 2-1 on Friday to certify the results during an emergency meeting as New Mexico counties faced a deadline for certification of the vote. The commissioners earlier had refused to certify the results, prompting the state's top election official to seek court intervention. The developments in New Mexico can be traced to far-right conspiracy theories over voting machines that have spread across the country over the past two years.