May 10, 2002
Dear Subscriber:

Because of the dry conditions and the over-grown forest around
Cloudcroft, we residents are always aware of the possibility
of wildfire.

When I was called Tuesday (4-30-02) by a neighbor that said
there might be a serious fire near Mayhill, I was fearful. It
was a fear of the unknown. If you know what you're up against
it gives you an edge. We didn't know what we were up against.

Authorities are preoccupied with coordinating efforts in
the early stages of a fire. They're not predisposed to
answering questions. I learned from covering the Scott Able
Fire two years ago that my best source of information was my
camera, my note pad and my pick-up.

I learn more from those on the lines...those actively fighting
the blaze and those engaged in citizen protection. They are
better sources than the people in the offices.

One exception to that rule is an official in the Otero County
Sheriff's office. He is always open and informative when I call
him (and he often calls me with late breaking news). I will not
embarrass him by singling him out.

The heck I won't. Thanks, George.

Day 2 -- Wednesday, May 1 -- The gale-force winds gave us all a
sense of foreboding. Peggy and I went to the staging area on
NM 130 near Mayhill, where support people had opened a strategic
office and had set up a line of a dozen porta-potties for those
working the project.

The high winds blew the porta-potties over. Every one of them.
All at once in domino fashion.

Immediately volunteers ran out into the blowing dirt to upright
the toilets and secure them.

I was there to take pictures and gather information, but I was
willing to help. A volunteer told me they had the situation
under control. He said there were no occupants in the
porta-potties when they overturned.

He made the comment that if there were any injuries in this
fire it would have been a shame if some of them had been
porta-pottie injuries.

One thing I noticed in the past week...despite the dire
situation and catastrophic possibilities, most everyone kept
their sense of humor.

Thursday, May 2 -- The state police allowed Peg and I into
Mayhill on Day Three of the fire.

News accounts had indicated Mayhill was Ground Zero. We were
pleasantly surprised to see the little town was conducting
business as usual. We stopped at the convenience store for gas
and while paying out, I said to the lady behind the counter
"Did you know the rest of the country thinks you guys have
burned up?"

She just smiled and said "Not today."

One of the locals in the store was talking to another local.

"I think they just painted your house pink."

When the slurry planes drop their fire retardant it coats
everything in pink.

17 homes burned in the Rio Penasco Fire. The majority of them
near Mayhill.

Friday, May 3rd -- Peg and I were on Hwy 82. The fire had
crested the mountain and was headed down toward the highway.
The huge 4-engine tankers were flying in one behind another
trying to knock down the blaze. Spotter planes flew in
formation with them to be sure they dropped their payloads in
the most opportune areas.

Digital cameras are neat, but those viewfinders are the pits.
They're like little TV screens and in the sunlight, it's hard
to see your focal point.

Peggy got the shot of the slurry plane dropping his load that
was posted earlier on Cloudcroft.com. I think she was lucky.
She thinks she's a photographer.

While we were taking pictures, a Red Cross truck pulled up.
"You guys want some water?" the Red Cross Lady asked.
While Peggy struggled with the camera, I walked over to the
truck. There in the bed of the pickup were cases of canned
water...most of them iced down. They were generic white cans
with "drinking water" printed in plain black letters on the
side. In small letters at the bottom were the words "Anheuser

"Budwieser?" I interrogated the Red Cross Lady.

She said Bud sends canned water to all disaster areas in the
nation through the Red Cross.

"I know what you're thinking," She said. "We've already been
through the cases hoping they made a mistake and sent the real

Hot Shots are the Rambos of fire fighting. These men are
trained well and paid well and they work only 5 months out of
the year but at any minute, with the change of the wind, they
could be dead. I put them up there with our nation's armed

They're also hams.

Ask a yellow-shirt about the fire and he'll tell you all you
wanted to know and then some. Ask a yellow-shirt to pose for a
picture and there are suddenly a bunch of them gathering to

They're tough and dedicated. My contacts with most of the Hot
Shots fighting Rio Penasco were during their down times; when
they were in the village taking a break.

I wasn't there when they were on the fire line...when they were
sweating and scared and depending upon each other to stay alert
and alive.

When the balance sheet of this fire has been reconciled...the
Hot Shots saved our chili.

Tuesday, May 7 -- The fire was a week old and for the first
time since it began, an end was in sight. Perimeters were
holding. The weather was cooperating. Hopefully by the time you
read this, the Penasco Fire will be totally contained.

One person died. The man suspected of accidentally starting the
fire. He committed suicide.

I could get into the politics of why our forests are in such
danger, but that's not my job. My job is to tell you what
happened. It's your job to learn why these fires occur and
what we can do to stop them.

Don Vanlandingham

Our Rio Penasco Fire coverage is available here:


Lots of sunshine and often windy. It was the high winds last
week that unleashed the Rio Penasco Fire.

Highs in the low-70s. Lows in the upper-30s/low-40s.

Fire danger remains extreme with restrictions still in place.
Here are some photos taken May 8 as the fire fighting was
winding down, showing some of the property damage caused by
the fire.


Cloudcroft.com wishes to extend a special thanks to Preston
Brashear for the photos he contributed to our fire coverage
and for locating the only decent map of the fire location.
This map, which is NOT to be considered precise, can be viewed


The village of Cloudcroft has installed a disaster warning
siren specifically for use if a wildfire immediately threatens
the village. The siren is located in the new Woodlands
subdivision, with another siren to be installed near the cable
tower to the north of the village.
The Sacramento Mountains' oldest and most-read newspaper. Each
month's issue includes local news, special features and
information on the area's current events. For subscription or
advertising information, call (505) 682-2208 or email
mountainmonthly@mountainmonthly.com or come by our office in
the Mountain Foto studio on historic Burro Street.
The New Mexico Museum of Space History is located in Alamogordo,
New Mexico. It is a complex consisting of the space museum,
Planetarium, IMAX dome theater, Hubbard Space Science Education
Facility and the International Space Hall of Fame.
Q - Since Cloudcroft has already had one significant wildfire
this season, does that mean the chances of a second one are

A - I enjoy a friendly game of Blackjack. Statistically, when
you lose a hand of Blackjack, you're odds of winning the next
hand are no better or worse. If you lose 5 hands in a row your
odds of winning the next hand are no better or worse.

If the weather conditions remain the same, the chances of the
Cloudcroft area suffering from another wildfire are no less
than they were before the Penasco fire, except that people will
probably be much more careful.

The chances of a fire WITH HUMAN ORIGINS is probably less.
May 11 -- Old Timer's Reunion, Cloudcroft High School, 12pm.
For more information, call (505) 682-2932.

May 15-31 -- Cloudcroft Art Society annual Miniature Art Show.
At the art gallery in the Burro Street Exchange.

May 24-26 -- Cloudcroft Light Opera Company Melodrama.
Zenith Park Pavilion, 7:30 pm.
For information call (505) 682-3317

May 25-26 -- Mayfair. Juried Arts and Crafts Show.
Zenith Park, 10am to 5pm. Horseshoe Tournament, Food, Drinks.
For information call (505) 682-2733.

May 25 -- Street Dance, 7-11pm. Music by Country Line.

May 25-27 -- Wimsatt Rodeo. Gordon Wimsatt Memorial Arena,
7 miles east of Cloudcroft on Hwy 82. 1:30pm daily.

June 1 -- National Trails Day. 10K walk.
For information call (505) 682-3040.

June 9 -- Father's Day brunch. Call 682-2566 for details.

June 14-16 -- Western Roundup. Parade, pie auction, BBQ.
Street dance Saturday 7-11pm.

June 15-16 -- Cherry Festival. High Rolls. Arts, food.

June 28-30 -- Bluegrass Festival. Music all day.
Open Air Pavilion, Camp Chimney Springs.

July -- Chili cook-off. Call (505)-437-6259 for specific
dates and location.

July 12-13 -- Melodrama. Covered Pavilion.

July 13-14 -- July Jamboree.

July 13 -- Flower Show at the Community Center, l-5pm.

July 14 -- Street Dance. Burro Avenue.

July 27 -- Train Load of Talent. Covered Pavilion.

Cloudcroft Art Society meets the second Sunday of each month,
2-4pm, in the Old Red Brick School House. Call (505) 682-2494
for more information. (Note day of the month change.)

Mountain Garden Club meets every third Monday of each month.
Call (505) 682-2910 for more information.

Senior Van from Timberon to Alamogordo leaves the Timberon
Lodge promptly at 8:30am every Tuesday morning.

Free Vitals Clinic. Second Saturday of each month, 11am to 1pm.
James Canyon Fire Department, 2346 Highway 82.

For information on highway closings for missile testing between
Alamogordo and Las Cruces/El Paso, call (800) 432-4269.

If you have news of public events in the Cloudcroft area, email

For an online calendar of area events, click the Events Calendar
link in the left column of our home page:


Dear Newsletter:

I want to say thanks to whoever is responsible for this site.

I live in North Carolina, and my son is on a hotshot fire crew
out of Taos. I always try to find info on whatever fire he's
on -- it makes me feel good to follow his travels, albeit from
this great distance.

Your site is quite astounding in general, and I very much
appreciate the incredibly up-to-date fire info and the pictures.

Thanks again.
Tina Schwartz

[Please give your son a huge thanks from all of us.]

Dear Newsletter:

I continue to be enticed out of retirement as my old TV station
(worked for them 40 years) preys on my loyalty, so I was working
the day news desk out of Fort Worth Monday when the noon
producer computer messaged me with the mention that "Your
Cloudcroft was on fire."

I messaged back that with all my expertise and knowledge of the
'croft, I doubted she was totally correct. Of course I
frantically pounded, pushed and probed every corner of
computerland I had access to. You had not assembled your
information yet.

After some phone calls to several folks who had No facts, I went
back to your page. There it was! Every detail I needed and some
I might not have wanted to know. The old (not so old) Lubbock
radio DJ?-newsman had "hit a home run."

Good job Don. Appreciate your hustle. Read Newsletter and saw
pictures. Continued excellent job...keep up the good work.

Bert N Shipp
(WFAA) Dallas. 

Dear Newsletter:

I understand that this newsletter is time consuming, but let it
be known there are people out here in Texas and the rest of the
US that can't be there, but be the next best to it.

Just read your newsletter and it is like being there. The pic's
were great to look at and I appreciate you going the extra mile,

We have not been up there is several years, but it is still
special in our hearts. Whenever you get the time to write again
just know it will be read.

Thanks again,
Dusty and Pat
Sweetwater, Texas.

Dear Newsletter:

I wanted to say THANKS to all of the people who built/maintain
this letter and website.

I live in Seattle, WA. My grandparents live outside the Village
near Mayhill. Thankfully they have not been evacuated, at least
not yet.

I have been checking the website several times a day since news
of the latest fire. I brings a great deal of relief to me and
my family to know we can get up to date information when it 

Our Prayers and Thoughts are with everyone there especially 
those who haven't been so fortunate.

Thanks Again,
Tim in Seattle

Dear Newsletter:

I just found out today about your newsletter. I have been 
traveling to the Cloudcroft area since 1983 and have owned
land (and a cabin) at Twin Forks, Wimsatt Loop since 1989. My
parents also own a cabin in an older Twin Forks subdivision.
We appreciate your coverage and photos of the Penasco fire.

Roger Westbrook

Dear Newsletter:

What a sad chain of events! Fire burning in the beautiful
Sacramento Mountains and Lincoln National Forest. Lost homes
and sanctuaries of people unknown to me, but close to my
spirit, through our shared love of the mountains.

And finally, the loss of a life due to an accident and caused
by a broken heart. I never met nor had I heard of Mr. William
Myers prior to this incident, but I wished I had. Mr. Myers
must have had a huge heart to allow an accident to overtake
him with so much pain. I wish William Myers well in his journey,
and the White family sends all their love and condolences to
Mr. Myers' family and friends. 

I hope no one else need suffer due to the unfortunate event that
has taken place this past week. And that all remain safe,
especially the fire fighters and other emergency workers.

Bill White (Friday evening May 3, 2002)
Phoenix, Arizona

Dear Newsletter:

To the webmasters and owners of Cloudcroft.com, I wish to thank
you all.

My parents live at mile marker 23 on Hwy 82. So far they are
not threatened by the fire, but it is close.

I lived in Cloudcroft with them before moving to Green Bay, WI
to go to school. Your web page has been wonderful in this time
of tragedy. I have many friends in the area such as the Swifts
and so forth.

I want to express my thanks for your updates, this is one of the
only ways I can get information about the fire! I love your
site and your updates, please keep them coming and keep up the
good work. You all are close to my heart and in my prayers.

I hope they get the upper hand on this fire and can get it
controlled. The pictures you provide send chills down my spine
and make the reality of this all too true. Please keep up the
good work!

Thank you again!
Damon Norris
Son of Jean and Rodger Norris James Canyon

Dear Newsletter:

Thanks for great coverage regarding fire. We are in St. Louis
watching the events on your page and appreciate your efforts.
Cabin is at Chippeway Park, above Red Barn at cattle crossing.

Frank & Norma Brown

Dear Newsletter:

I want to let you know how much I appreciate the coverage on
the Penasco Fire on Cloudcroft.com.

We own property in Cloudcroft and have been concerned about the
fire. Today, I connected to your website and was very pleased
with the thorough coverage. Thanks very much for your effort
and good reporting. We had nothing on our news in Texas except
one report alerting us to danger in Otero County.

Marjorie Van Riper

Dear Newsletter:

I want to express my thanks and I am sure the thanks of many
others for your coverage of the Rio Penasco fire. Hopefully it
will be fully contained in the next couple of days.

My mother's family, the Harwell's, have an annual reunion in
Mayhill. My family and I have stayed in Cloudcroft for some of
these meetings and enjoyed your community.

Only recently have we subscribed to your newsletter and enjoyed
the humor and humanity of it. But it was only after the start
of the fire that we fully appreciated the importance of the
newsletter. We have been logging on to the internet at least
twice a day to get your concise and informative reports. Our
only regrets are that we could not be there to assist in some

Your newsletter has served the purpose of keeping the sometime
residents (Texans mostly and proud to be Cloudcroft
enthusiasts) of your fine community informed of local doings.
Now you can be proud of being the best source of information on
a major news story.

Again our thanks. Keep up the good work.

Joe & Ann Johnson
Houston, Texas

Dear Newsletter:

I feel certain, reading your latest newsletter, I will be among
the hundreds of readers that will write commenting on the
Penasco Fire.

I will keep mine short, but wanted to let everyone know my
thoughts and feelings! I was shocked to see just how close the
fire was to my home in the Waterfall area. Living in Carlsbad,
full time, I followed each news cast on TV. Naturally, one
would be foolish to say they were not concerned, but I must
say, my concerns and fears were relieved to a great degree when
I saw all the dedicated people working the fire!

I knew all along that many friends and neighbors would rise to
the challenge of a fire if and when it ever presented itself!

I wish I could thank each and every one of them personally.
Since that is not possible, I will do it in this manner and I
trust I will be just one of the hundreds expressing their

Thanks Guys and Gals for every effort!
Sarah Keith
Carlsbad, NM 

Dear Newsletter:

Your fire coverage and especially the photos are fantastic. My
parents own a home in Mayhill, heard today all is well. I live
in Elko, Nevada, which is in the Northeastern portion of the
state. We also live in a very mountainous area with many trees.
Fire season last year was a nightmare for us as well.

Wish you all the best.

James McVey

Dear Newsletter:

We want to thank you for your web site. We just recently
discovered it.

We have a home in the Chippeway area and have been very worried
about the Penasco fire. This area has been our 2nd home for
over 30 years.

Thanks again for your informative web site, we will be looking
at often.

Merritt & Marilyn Mize
Wolfforth, Tx.

Dear Newsletter:

Thanks, as always, for the great fire coverage. We were
traveling when the fire started and were so pleased that we
could access Cloudcroft.com from all locations to keep aware
of the conditions.

You guys are appreciated!

Thank you.
Diane Bazar

Dear Newsletter:

I just received my FIRST newsletter and I'm counting the days
and hours 'till I get to Cloudcroft to spend 3 glorious months
with you fine people.


Dear Newsletter:

My husband, son and I enjoyed living in El Paso while we were
there, but to see green grass and trees taller than our house,
we visited Cloudcroft. I did enjoy every couple of weeks going
over there, but we didn't get to see much snow. That was 3
years ago and we now live in Missouri where there is green
grass and trees and rolling hillsides. But we do miss our
fellow Texans and lovely Cloudcroft!

Colleen Rodriguez
Eldon, Missouri

Dear Newsletter:

I was doing a google.com search for photos of the May 5 tornado
up at Happy, Tx, when this site was presented me as a
possibility. I suppose Mr. Trone's email concerning the
tornadic-like winds near Bear Slide (March 15 issue) is why
google found it.

We have a summer place in Ruidoso and are fervently awaiting
our departure for that wonderful "Land of Enchantment." (Too
old to ski or we would probably never winterize the place). Our
summer-long stays offer us many opportunities to visit
Cloudcroft and it's environs. Golf at The Lodge is certainly
exciting, while the Cherry Festival at High Rolls is always 

I feel terribly sorry for the people in Happy, but because of
that tragedy I've accidentally found some very worthwhile and
delightful reading in your newsletter. Thank you for doing it.
The stories and emails bring back lots of memories--some old
ones and some not so old.

Now if I can just find where to subscribe again....

Don Ammons
Post, TX 

Dear Newsletter:

Don, great coverage of the fire. Your talents seem to be
unending. Now you're getting to do real gum shoe work. (That's
big city talk for a reporter beating the pavement; chasing a

I hope all is under control by now. You folks don't need another
fire like a couple of years ago. Our prayers are with you and
your community and those that have already lost property. Fare

Joe Wells,

Dear Newsletter:

It has been so helpful to be able to get on your website and
keep up with the fire updates.

We have a home east of the ski area and have been constantly
checking on things with your help. We will be heading that way
very soon to check on things ourselves. The photos have been
awesome. What a scary thing to be witnessing first hand. It
was pretty scary just seeing it on my monitor. 

Thank you so much for your assistance. 

Nancy Weinberger 

Dear Newsletter:

At 5:30am we saw a brief description of the fire on a national
news program. 

Please keep us updated. Your newsletter has made us part of a
community that we have loved since childhood. We have a need
to know how the people you talk about are doing now. 

Jim & Sue Henderson
Abilene Tx

[Thanks to the many, many others who wrote about the fire.
Space limitations prevent us from putting in more letters.]

Dear Newsletter:

Here are some photos I took yesterday (May 4) showing a little
of the aftermath of the Kokopelli fire near Ruidoso that
destroyed 28 homes this spring.


Feel free to refer your readers to this page. It doesn't
advertise anything - it's just to further emphasis how
dangerous the situation can be in high winds.

Jack Schuller

[Thanks for the photos.]

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Copyright © 2002 Cloudcroft Online
The Travel and Visitor's Guide to Cloudcroft, New Mexico.
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