Tuesday News Roundup: Wildfire Rages As Navajo Communities Evacuate

Jun 17, 2014

Wildfire Rages As Navajo Communities Evacuate The Associated Press

A wildfire that has forced the evacuations of Navajo communities in northwestern New Mexico has grown to more than 17 square miles.

Fire officials say the Assayii Lake Fire is being fueled by fierce winds.

There's zero containment, and the gusts have hampered any effort to attack the flames directly.

Fire spokeswoman Arlene Perea says parts of Naschitti and the nearby community of Sheep Springs have been evacuated and residents in other areas have been put on notice that they might have to leave.

Authorities estimate there are about 400 people who live in the two rural communities.

Perea says officials are most concerned about keeping firefighters and the public out of harm's way given the erratic nature of the fire and the unfavorable weather conditions.

The human-caused blaze was first reported Friday.

The primary Assayii Lake Fire information page is here.

The State's Best Breakfast Burritos Announced - KOB-TV & KUNM

The state’s best breakfast burritos have been been unveiled in New Mexico’s Breakfast Burrito Byway.  KOB TV reports that for a restaurant's breakfast burrito to have qualified, they must contain egg, tortilla, and real New Mexico chile. The competition began back in April, when 400 restaurants were either nominated by customers or self-nominated.  Then the public voted to narrow it down to the top 50.  In Albuquerque, the Frontier, Hurricanes Drive-In, Sadies, Flying Star and Wecks all topped the list.  In Santa Fe - Warrior Fuel and Wind Dancer Grill were the favorites.  Blake’s Lataburger was also mentioned in most regions.  And Katrinah's East Mountain Grill in Edgewood received the most votes.  You can check out the list at NewMexico.org/burrito.


Albuquerque City Council Contracts PR FirmThe Associated Press and KOAT TV

The Albuquerque City Council has decided to hire publicity handlers.

KOAT-TV reports that city councilors announced a contract with an Albuquerque-based public relations firm.

Council President Ken Sanchez says the decision was made in the wake of national attention from a scathing U.S. Justice Department report, as well as protests of a series of police-involved shootings.

Sanchez says the council has entered into a $25,000 agreement with the Garrity Group. Noting that the arrangement will cost less than a full-time public information officer.

The Garrity Group says they are still in negotiations with the city on a contract.

The firm will handle media questions and work with councilors and staff on how to respond to the community.

44 Cadets Enter Revamped Albuquerque Police Academy - The Associated Press

More than 40 police cadets have begun their 26-week training course at the Albuquerque Police Roger Hoisington Training Academy.

Officials say the training started Monday and involves a new, intense emphasis on crisis intervention and scenario-based training.

Cadets will study New Mexico State Law, city ordinances, Constitutional law and criminal law, traffic regulations and criminal investigation techniques.

A recent scathing report from the U.S. Justice Department faulted Albuquerque police over its use of force and the way it previously trained cadets.

Officials say of the 44 cadets who will be part of the new class, 21 are native New Mexicans, 14 have undergraduate degrees, and three have master's degrees.

Albuquerque Burglary Suspect's Death A Suicide - The Associated Press and Albuquerque Journal

A burglary suspect who shot an Albuquerque police dog before being found dead is believed to have committed suicide.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Tuesday that an autopsy report released last week says 56-year-old Dale Anthony Lusian killed himself.

Police say the responded to a possible burglary March 21 at a towing company parking lot.

Authorities say Lusian barricaded himself inside a trailer when officers showed up.

A police canine was sniffing around for the suspect when Lusian allegedly shot the dog several times.

The dog has since recovered.

The Office of the Medical Investigator's report says Lusian had one gunshot wound to the chest and a gun was found next to his body.

Lusian also had injuries from the dog and bean bag rounds.

Gary King Hires Gubernatorial Campaign Manager - The Associated Press

Democrat Gary King has a new campaign manager for his general election bid against Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.

Day-to-day campaign operations will be managed by Steve Verzwyvelt. He's a native of Louisiana who's worked on campaigns in other states for about a dozen years.

Verzwyvelt replaces Jim Farrell, who said he left the campaign at the end of the primary election to spend more time with his family in Las Cruces.

Verzwyvelt says this is his first race in New Mexico and he previously focused mostly on congressional campaigns.

Most recently he was working on strategy for federal super PACs targeting U.S. Senate races in Louisiana, Arkansas and North Carolina.

Bicyclist Dead After A Train Accident In Santa Fe - The Associated Press

A bicyclist is dead after being struck by a Rail Runner train in Santa Fe.

Santa Fe police say the incident occurred about 11:30 yesterday morning.  

The bicyclist and train collided as the man on the bike crossed the tracks and the train crossed the sidewalk.

The unidentified bicyclist was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

It's unclear if he was wearing a helmet or headphones.

Police say the arms, bells, and signals for the Rail Runner were working at the time of the accident.

Las Cruces Firefighters To Get Pay Raises - The Associated Press and Las Cruces Sun-News

Las Cruces city officials have settled on a new contract with firefighters that will mean salary bumps.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that city councilors unanimously approved a new contract with the firefighters' union that includes three pay raises.

Officials say the contract calls for an immediate wage increase of 2 percent.

Salaries would then go up another 2 percent next month followed by a 2.5 percent increase in July 2015.

Union president Michael Landavazo says the 121 fire department employees are satisfied and the raises will help maintain staffing levels.

The contract does not cover civilian staff, battalion chiefs, two deputy chiefs and the fire chief.

City managers say the last raise was in May 2012.

New Mexico To Sell Leftover Hunting Licenses - The Associated Press

New Mexico is offering hunters another opportunity to buy a license to hunt deer and javelina later this year and in early 2015.

The state Game and Fish Department plans an online sale next week of about 1,000 javelina licenses and more than 3,000 deer licenses, many of them for archery and muzzleloader hunts.

The licenses were left over after the department's annual drawing for hunting permits.

The sale is open first to New Mexico residents, beginning at 10 a.m. on June 25 on the department's web site. Out-of-state residents can purchase a leftover license starting the next day.