Little Bear Fire - not little

The Little Bear Fire started as a four acre lightning strike. It was observed for two days by the Forest Service since it was in a Wilderness location. No attempt was made to douse the fire using mechanical means. Then the winds shifted and we have the mega-fire that has effected Lincoln County. Julie Carter is a former newspaper reporter who covered Lincoln County for many years. She will bring her perspective to News New Mexico Monday at 7 a.m.

Virgin Galactic closer to space flight

Las Cruces Sun-News - The iris in Virgin Galactic's logo is that of Sir Richard Branson's — you know, the billionaire owner — very own eye. Did you know that the business cards of other executives also includes their own irises. Well, whether you consider that creepy, innovative, or both, the undeniable fact is that the company has its eye, figuratively, on southern New Mexico. Seven and a half years ago, Branson stopped by a spot in the desert about 40 miles north of Las Cruces and celebrated with school children the spot where Spaceport America would be built. Last week, CEO and President George Whitesides was in town as the company held an open house event for its Las Cruces office. Such an event flies in the face of some of the comments we've all heard in the past 7 1/2 years:
• "The spaceport will never happen. We'll drive by up there and see a concrete pad with brush grown up around it."
• "New Mexicans will never support an expensive project for rich people."
• "The economy will kill the project."
Whitesides said he's heard the comments too. Still the company plans to launch suborbital space flights at the $200 million Spaceport America, which is nearly complete. Whitesides said he's looking forward to the start of space flights as a company exec and as a customer. In fact, the company executive said Virgin hopes to begin flights in the second half of 2013. Read More News New Mexico


Thousands wonder whether they'll have homes in light of Little Bear Fire burning north of Ruidoso

KOB - Nearly 6,000 people filled the Ruidoso High School gym to question authorities about how close the Little Bear Fire will get to their homes. Officials said at least 25 structures have burned in the latest fire to hit New Mexico. However, it’s unclear right now how many people lost their homes, and how many acres the fire actually burned. On Sunday, crews said the fire in southeastern New Mexico had charred more than 26,000 acres. “Everything is there,” Alto, NM resident Elaine Grimes said. “I could lose everything. It's in god's hands now.” The Little Bear fire was only few acres on Wednesday. Spot fires developed outside of the lines thanks to windy conditions and by Saturday morning more than 10,000 acres had been charred. Fire information officers say summer homes and campgrounds in the area about 15 miles north of Ruidoso were evacuated late Friday. Crews said evacuations were also sent out to homes along N.M. 48 from Capitan to Angus and on N.M. 37 to 380. Those routes are also closed. There was no immediate word on how many people were evacuated. Shelters were set up at churches in Ruidoso and Capitan. Evacuees can go to Gateway Church and the Methodist Church on Sudderth in Ruidoso. People near Capitan can go to Trinity Church and the Lincoln County Fairgrounds. The J Bar J Ranch just west of Ruidoso on U.S. 70 is available for livestock. Crews haven't had a chance to do a formal damage assessment. Read More News New Mexico


NM study: Repeat DWI offenders growing problem

Alamogordo Daily News - New Mexico continues to struggle with one of the nation's worst drunken driving problems, and Gov. Susana Martinez contends the state needs to focus on a growing threat from offenders who repeatedly drink and drive despite multiple arrests and convictions. Nearly 60 percent of alcohol-related traffic deaths last year involved a driver with more than one arrest or conviction for drunken driving, according to a new analysis by the Department of Transportation's Traffic Safety Bureau. That's up from 35 percent in 2009 and 47 percent in 2010. A similar study by the agency in 2006 found that 30 percent of alcohol-involved fatalities were caused by repeat offenders and 70 percent by those with a first-time arrest or conviction for driving while intoxicated. "This is a dramatic shift that should call all of us to action," the governor said in a statement. "Repeat drunk drivers simply aren't getting the message, and innocent lives are being lost as a result." New Mexico once had the worst drunken driving problem in the nation. However, the state has dropped out of the top 10 nationally for the number of DWI fatalities per 100,000 population after repeatedly changing the law to toughen penalties, increase enforcement and provide court-based alcohol treatment programs for those convicted of drunken driving. In 2011, 154 people died in alcohol-involved traffic crashes—representing about two-fifths of all highway deaths in the state. Martinez is a former prosecutor and since taking office last year has unsuccessfully sought changes in law to increase penalties for repeat drunken drivers. She plans to ask the Legislature again next year to approve longer prison terms for repeat offenders as well as allow authorities to seize the vehicles of repeat drunken drivers. Read More News New Mexico