TUES: Long journey to recovery remains after Calf Canyon/Hermit's Peak Fire declared contained, + More
Record-setting wildfire in New Mexico declared contained - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press
More than four grueling months and $300 million later, the federal government has declared the largest wildfire in New Mexico's recorded history 100% contained, a notable milestone but just another step in what local residents and officials say will be a long journey toward recovery.
The blaze was sparked in the spring by two errant prescribed fires conducted by the U.S. Forest Service. More than 530 square miles of the Rocky Mountain foothills burned, hundreds of homes were destroyed, livelihoods were lost and drinking water supplies were contaminated.
Local officials say there are years of work ahead of them to restore the landscape and protect against post-fire flooding.
San Miguel County Manager Joy Ansley and her team have been working nonstop since the first plumes of smoke began rising from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. They helped coordinate the evacuation of thousands of people from small mountain villages and worked with the state and the city of Las Vegas as flames approached.
With the summer rainy season in full swing, Ansley said parts of northern New Mexico are flooding on a weekly basis.
"It's going to be a long process and just because the fire is contained, we're certainly not out of the woods," she said Tuesday.
In addition to costs related to fighting the fire, federal emergency managers have paid out more than $4.5 million in aid to affected individuals and households and $6.7 million in low-interest loans for small businesses.
While more than 1,200 applications for individual assistance have been vetted, the Federal Emergency Management Agency would not say how many total applications have been received or denied.
Some residents have voiced frustrations about denials over a lack of having a street address for their rural properties. Others have complained that federal officials don't understand rural life in northern New Mexico and how fallout from the fire has affected them.
New Mexico's major disaster declaration has been expanded to include flooding, mudflows and debris flows directly related to the wildfires. Dasha Castillo, a spokesperson for FEMA, said residents who already applied for wildfire disaster assistance just need to update their original application to include flooding or other damage.
Castillo encouraged people to contact FEMA if they applied and haven't heard back.
Legislation is pending in Congress that would authorize full compensation for New Mexico residents and business owners for losses caused by the massive wildfire, but there's uncertainty about the ultimate price tag.
The scar left behind by the wildfire includes some areas that were reduced to ash and others where the severity was less intense. More than 400 firefighters are still assigned to the blaze and have been busy repairing hundreds of miles of fire lines cut to corral the flames, digging trenches to control erosion and removing fallen trees and other debris.
The U.S. Forest Service said helicopters will distribute about 138 tons of seed and 5,440 tons of mulch. So far, about 4 square miles have been seeded.
No hot spots have been reported for more than a month, but given the history of how the blaze started officials wanted to be confident when declaring containment, said Stefan La-Sky, a fire information officer with the U.S. Forest Service.
"We don't take that number lightly," he said of the designation.
New Mexico marked an early start to what has been a devastating wildfire season across the U.S. with a deadly fire in Ruidoso and then the blaze near Las Vegas.
In all, federal fire officials report more than 9,372 square miles have burned since the start of the year to outpace the 10-year average, and predictions for more warm, dry weather mean some areas will see above-normal wildfire activity into the fall.
2 women arrested in alleged child abuse case in New Mexico - Associated Press
Two women in eastern New Mexico have been arrested for allegedly beating children in their care and chaining them to their beds to deny them food, authorities said.
Documents filed in Curry County Magistrate Court show 37-year-old Jayme L. Kushman and 29-year-old Jaime Kay Sena were both taken into custody Monday on 21 counts of suspected child abuse plus obstructing an investigation of child abuse.
It was unclear Tuesday if either woman has a lawyer yet who can speak on their behalf.
Authorities said children between the ages of 5 and 14 were living in with Kushman and Sena in a Texico home near the Texas border.
The children included Sena's kids, Kushman's family members and at least one foster child.
New Mexico State Police investigators say they uncovered videos of some of the children being chained by the ankles to their beds, allegedly to keep them from taking food from the kitchen when they were hungry.
Police said they also found filthy conditions in the home including no running water, a toilet backed up with human waste and bedrooms smelling of urine.
The New Mexico Child, Youth and Families Department alerted police about a possible child abuse case on July 22 and that began an investigation that resulted in the arrests.
Arizona levee breached, hiker missing after floods hit West - By Sam Metz And Jesse Bedayn Associated Press
A levee was breached Monday in a small town near the Arizona-New Mexico state line, forcing the evacuations of 60 people after a weekend of flash floods across the American Southwest that also swept away one woman who is still missing in Utah's Zion National Park.
In Duncan, a rural Arizona town located about 180 miles from Phoenix, weekend rains overwhelmed a dirt-barrier levee built more than a century ago to contain the Gila River, putting the town under inches of water. As many as 60 residents have evacuated, Fire Chief Hayden Boyd said. Water had already begun to recede, but more needed to before the town is safe to return to, Boyd added.
The flooding incident was among several to recently wreak havoc on a drought-stricken region that spans from Dallas, Texas to Las Vegas, Nevada — stranding tourists, closing highways and funneling trees and rocks toward downtowns. Heavy rains pummeled the Dallas-Fort Worth area, causing streets to flood and submerging vehicles as officials warned motorists to stay off the roads.
And rescue teams in southern Utah expanded their search for a lost hiker who found herself stranded amid torrential flooding. The episode illustrated how deteriorating weather conditions can transform the region's striking landscapes enjoyed by millions — including its striking canyons made of red rock and limestone — from picture-worthy paradises into life-threatening nightmares.
Rangers said their area that teams were searching for Jetal Agnihotri, a 29-year-old from Tucson, Arizona, now includes parts of the Virgin River that flow out from the southern border of Zion National Park, where the Virgin River flows the southward toward the town of Hurricane. Agnihotri was among a group of hikers who were swept away by floodwaters rushing through a popular hiking location in one of the park's many slot canyons. Both the National Weather Service and Washington County, Utah, had issued flood warnings for the area that day.
All of the hikers except Agnihotri were found on high ground and were rescued after water levels receded. Her brother told a local television station she could not swim.
Zion National Park is among the United States' most visited recreation areas even though it frequently becomes hazardous and is put under flood warnings by the National Weather Service. Floods can create danger for experienced hikers and climbers as well as the many novices who have flocked to the park since the pandemic bolstered an outdoor recreation boom. Despite warnings, flash flooding routinely traps people in the park's slot canyons, which are as narrow as windows in some spots and hundreds of feet deep.
"Once you're in there, you're just kind of S.O.L. if (a flash flood) happens," said Scott Cundy, whose Arizona-based trekking company takes visitors on guided tours through the park.
Cundy vividly remembers one year when he was taking a group on a tour and turned to see a wall of water plunging toward them. They rushed to reach high ground in the Grand Canyon, a two-hour drive from Zion. Until moments before, he hadn't seen one cloud in the sky. "It happens very fast," he said. Given the topography, Cundy will cancel trips if there's even a hint of rain in the narrow canyons of Zion.
Farther southeast, nearly 200 hikers had to be rescued in New Mexico, where flooded roads left them stranded in Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
In parks like Zion and Carlsbad Caverns, flooding can transform canyons, slick rocks and normally dry washes into deadly channels of fast-moving water and debris in mere minutes. In previous years, walls of water as tall as buildings have engulfed vehicles, rolled boulders, torn out trees and opened sinkholes where solid ground once stood.
In September 2015, similar storms killed seven hikers who drowned in one of Zion's narrow canyons.
During that same storm, bodies of another 12 people were found amid mud and debris miles away in the nearby town of Hildale, Utah, a community on the Utah-Arizona border. A group of women and children were returning from a park in two cars when a wall of water surged out of a canyon and swept them downstream and crashing into a flooded-out embankment, with one vehicle smashed beyond recognition. Three boys survived. The body of a 6-year-old boy was never found.
Elsewhere, businesses and trails remained closed in the town of Moab, Utah, which was overwhelmed with floodwaters over the weekend. Trees, rocks and red-orange mud washed into town, with floodwaters carrying cars along the town's Main Street.
Though much of the region remains in a decades-long drought, climate change has made weather patterns more variable and left soils drier and less absorbent, creating conditions more prone to floods and monsoons.
Flooding has swept parts of southern Utah in and around Moab and Zion throughout the summer, causing streams of water to cascade down from the region's red rock cliffs and spill out from the sides of riverbanks.
New Mexico oilfield regulators reach settlement with company - Associated Press
State oil and gas regulators say they have reached a financial settlement with XTO Permian Operating to resolve violation notices at wastewater injection sites in southeastern New Mexico.
The Oil Conservation Division on Monday announced that XTO will pay nearly $1.8 million to the state general fund to resolve notices at four wells.
Regulators say that XTO has been cooperative in correcting violations and undertook an audit of its injection well sites to identify and respond to gaps in regulatory compliance. Company representatives could not be reached immediately for comment.
New Mexico updated its guidelines for disposal wells last year following an increase in seismic activity in parts of the Permian Basin that was believed to be associated with injection wells for wastewater and other fluids generated during oil and gas production.
The guidelines included immediate response protocols for operators to follow, including reporting and operational requirements. The guidelines also detailed the next steps the Oil Conservation Division would take if seismic activity continues in the area.
Hopi teens see need for skateboarding park, make it happen - By Felicia Fonseca Associated Press
They skateboarded on basketball courts and in parking lots, through highway intersections and down roads that twist from the mesas that rise above the high desert.
They set up tricks with old railroad ties and lumber, sometimes using their own skateboards to move the materials in place. During a pandemic that led to lockdowns, curfews and mask mandates on the Hopi reservation, the solo nature of skateboarding was a comfort.
But the reservation that borders the northeast corner of Arizona lacked a designated skate spot. So a group of Hopi teenagers made it happen, seeing out a project they initially thought would take months and displaying the Hopi cultural value of sumi'nangwa — coming together for the greater good.
"I hope this will inspire other youth groups to try and do something like this to make the Hopi community a better place for the future generations of our people," said Quintin "Q" Nahsonhoya, one of a handful of co-leads on the project.
The skateboarding destination opened late this spring in the Village of Tewa. It's called Skate 264 for the highway that runs through the 2,500 square-mile Hopi reservation and connects the more than dozen villages. Kira Nevayaktewa came up with the logo that features a cat named "Skategod" that was part of the crew.
The youth group first wanted to ensure the community wanted a skate park, so they surveyed residents who overwhelmingly supported the idea. The group received a grant for branding, sold merchandise to raise money, secured a plot of land and got materials donated through partnerships.
Skate parks have popped up across Indian Country in recent years, many of them youth-led. Some host competitions like one on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota or the All Nations Skate Jam held during the Gathering of Nations powwow in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to much smaller spots like those on Hopi. Native Americans also have created their own brands of skateboards that feature traditional designs with modern twists. The sport that has Indigenous roots tied to surfing has gained even more acceptance since it debuted at the 2020 Olympics, said Betsy Gordon, who curated an exhibit on skateboarding in Native communities at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian.
"That gives it legitimacy in a lot of adult eyes, people who are making the rules or who fund (skate parks)," she said. "This sense of skateboarding being outsider and niche and oppositional and dangerous, I think it's really disappearing."
The creators of the Hopi skate spot — all teenagers when they started work in it in late 2020 — make it clear skateboarding is for everyone. Go at your own pace. Create your own style. No one is too good to fall, they say in an online Wipe Out Wednesday feature.
In one of their videos, someone picks up a skateboard for the first time, learns new tricks and is celebrated even when he doesn't land them.
"For Hopi, a lot of things have to do from the heart and not willing to give up," said Terrill Humeyestewa, one of the co-leads. "The skateboard is is kind of the same principle as that. Have a good mind, strong heart, think about what you're doing it for and everything will work out OK."
The co-leads, who also include Laela Nevayaktewa and Jacque Thorpe, have a mix of shy and outspoken characteristics. Each of them became comfortable talking with people outside their circle of family and friends. They got approval from the Village of Tewa for land to build the skate spot — no small feat on tribal land where development requires approval from clans, permit holders or the larger community.
The group raised money by selling beanies, stickers and shirts at roadside stands. Nahsonhoya's father, Brandon, and stepmother, Valaura, served as fiscal sponsors and created partnerships with a Phoenix-area skateboard company that donated the ramp and props, and others who donated concrete for the foundation. Other family members and the broader community helped with the manual labor, feeding the crew or providing guidance.
Some of the co-leads have graduated high school since starting the project, others are finishing up. While safety was a priority, they said they also wanted to bring joy to others through skateboarding, stay active and avoid bad influences.
"It keeps you from doing nothing with your time, and that's how I see Hopi and skateboarding coming together, filling your days and your time with something positive," Thorpe said.
Adult mentors lent their skills for video production, photography, graphic design and organizing to keep the group on track and encourage them.
"I didn't know about skateboarding, but what I do know is community organizing and local fundraising, and I have a lot of connections in the community, so I can figure it out with you guys," Samantha Honanie, a mentor, told the group.
"If they believed in themselves, we were going to walk them through this whole process," said Paul Molina, another mentor.
The Village of Tewa now is overseeing the park and eventually will have security guards to patrol the area. Village leaders are hoping to add lights and a basketball court alongside the softball fields for the youth, said Deidra Honyumptewa, chair of the village's board of directors.
"It's a huge testament to us leaders, or older people, that these kids can get things done and they see a need for it," she said.
As inflation soars, access to Indigenous foods declines - By Claire Savage, Hannah Schoenbaum And Trisha Ahmed Associated Press/Report For America
Blueberry bison tamales, harvest salad with mixed greens, creamy carrot and wild rice soup, roasted turkey with squash. This contemporary Native American meal, crafted from the traditional foods of tribes across the United States and prepared with "Ketapanen" – a Menominee expression of love – cost caterer Jessica Pamonicutt $976 to feed a group of 50 people last November.
Today it costs her nearly double.
Pamonicutt is the executive chef of Chicago-based Native American catering business Ketapanen Kitchen. She is a citizen of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin but was raised in the Windy City, home to one of the largest urban Native populations in the country, according to the American Indian Center of Chicago.
Her business aims to offer health-conscious meals featuring Indigenous ingredients to the Chicago Native community and educate people about Indigenous contributions to everyday American fare.
One day, she aims to purchase all ingredients from Native suppliers and provide her community with affordable access to healthy Indigenous foods, "but this whole inflation thing has slowed that down," she said.
U.S. inflation surged to a new four-decade high in June, squeezing household budgets with painfully high prices for gas, food and rent.
Traditional Indigenous foods — like wild rice, bison, fresh vegetables and fruit in the Midwest — are often unavailable or too expensive for Native families in urban areas like Chicago, and the recent inflation spike has propelled these foods even further out of reach.
Risk of disease compounds the problem: healthy eating is key to battling diabetes, which afflicts Native Americans at the highest rate of any ethnic group in the United States.
"There are many benefits to eating traditional Native foods," said Jessica Thurin, a dietician at Native American Community Clinic in Minneapolis. "The body knows exactly how to process and use that food. These foods are natural to the Earth."
But many people the clinic serves are low-income and do not have the luxury of choosing where their food comes from. Food deserts – areas with limited access to a variety of healthy and affordable foods – are more likely to exist in places with higher rates of poverty and concentrations of minority populations.
"In these situations, there are limited healthy food options, not to mention limited traditional food options," Thurin said.
Aside from health benefits, traditional foods hold important cultural and emotional value.
"It's just comfort," said Danielle Lucas, a 39-year-old descendant of the Sicangu Lakota people from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota.
Lucas' mother, Evelyn Red Lodge, said she hasn't prepared traditional dishes of the Great Plains, like wojapi berry sauce or stew, since May because the prices of key ingredients – berries and meat – have soared.
Pamonicutt, too, is feeling the pinch. Between last winter and this spring, the price of bison jumped from $13.99 to $23.99 per pound.
Shipping costs are so high that the chef said it's often cheaper to drive hundreds of miles to buy ingredients, even with spiking gas prices. She's even had to create her own suppliers: the 45-year-old's parents are now growing crops for her business on their Wisconsin property near the Illinois border.
Gina Roxas, program coordinator at Trickster Cultural Center in Schaumburg, Illinois, a Chicago suburb, has also agreed to grow Native foods to help the chef minimize costs.
When a bag of wild rice costs $20, "you end up going to a fast food place instead to feed your family," Roxas said.
More than 70% of Native Americans reside in urban areas – the result of decades of federal policies pushing families to leave reservations and assimilate into American society.
Dorene Wiese, executive director of the Chicago-based American Indian Association of Illinois, said members of her community have to prioritize making rent payments over splurging on healthy, traditional foods.
Even though specialty chefs like Pamonicutt aim to feed their own communities, the cost of her premium catering service is out of the price range for many urban Natives. Her meals end up feeding majority non-Native audiences at museums or cultural events that can foot the bill, said Wiese, a citizen of the Minnesota White Earth Band of Ojibwe Indians.
"There really is a shortage of Native foods in the area," she said, But the problem isn't unique to Chicago.
Dana Thompson, co-owner of The Sioux Chef company and executive director of a Minneapolis Indigenous food nonprofit, is another Native businesswoman striving to expand her urban community's access to traditional local foods like lake fish, wild rice and wild greens amid the food price surge.
Thompson, of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate and Mdewakanton Dakota people, said inflation is "really impacting the food systems we have here," which include dozens of Indigenous, local and organic food producers.
At Owamni, an award-winning Indigenous restaurant under The Sioux Chef umbrella, ingredients like Labrador Tea – which grows wild in northern Minnesota – have been especially difficult to get this year, Thompson said.
When an ingredient is not consistently available or affordable, she changes the menu.
"Being fluid and resilient is what we're used to," Thompson said. "That's like the history of indigeneity in North America."
Inflation is similarly impeding the American Indian Center of Chicago's efforts to improve food security. Executive Director Melodi Serna, of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, said the current prices of food boxes they distribute – with traditional Midwestern foods like fish, bison, venison, dairy products and produce – are "astronomical."
"Where I could have been able to provide maybe 100 boxes, now we're only able to provide 50," Serna said.
For 57-year-old Emmie King, a Chicago resident and citizen of the Navajo Nation, getting the fresh ingredients she grew up with in New Mexico is much more difficult in the city, especially with inflation biting into her budget.
She finds ways to "stretch" the food she buys so it lasts longer, purchasing meat in bulk and freezing small portions to add to stews later on. "I get what I need, rather than what I want," she said.
But King was able to enjoy a taste of home at an Aug. 3 luncheon at the American Indian Center of Chicago, where twenty elders gathered to enjoy turkey tamales with cranberry-infused masa, Spanish rice with quinoa, elote pasta salad with chickpea noodles and glasses of cold lemonade.
The mastermind behind the meal was Pamonicutt herself, sharing her spin on Southwestern and Northern Indigeneous food traditions. Through volunteering at senior lunches and developing a food education program, the chef is continuing to increase access to healthy Indigenous foods in her community.
"I want kids to learn where these foods come from," the chef said. "That whole act of caring for your food … thanking it, understanding that it was grown to help us survive."
Afghan refugee faces murder charge in third Muslim killing - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press
An Afghan refugee charged in the slayings of two Muslim men is facing new charges in connection with the shooting death of another man in the parking lot of a refugee resettlement agency earlier this month.
A grand jury indicted Muhammad Syed in the three killings Monday. He's also a suspect in the shooting death of a Muslim shop owner in November 2021, but he has yet to be charged in that case.
The indictment includes the deaths of Aftab Hussein and Muhammad Afzaal Hussain. Hussein, 41, was slain on the night of July 26 after parking his car in the usual spot near his home. Afzaal Hussain, a 27-year-old urban planner who had worked on the campaign of a New Mexico congresswoman, was gunned down on Aug. 1 while taking his evening walk.
In the Aug. 5 killing, authorities have accused Syed of shooting Naeem Hussain as he sat in his vehicle outside Lutheran Family Services, the resettlement agency, following funeral services for two of the other shooting victims. Shots were fired at Hussain's SUV around 4 p.m., striking him in the head and the arm.
Syed, 51, has denied any involvement in the killings that shook New Mexico's Muslim community, and his defense attorneys argued during a court hearing last week that he had no criminal record since previous domestic violence cases against him were not pursued.
Prosecutors argued that Syed was a dangerous man. A state district agreed, ordering Syed to be held without bond pending trial.
The indictment made public Monday also includes four counts of tampering with evidence related to the three killings that Syed has been charged with.
"Our homicide detectives continue to work with prosecutors to ensure all victims receive justice in this tragic case," Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said in a statement.
Syed's public defenders declined to comment on the latest charges.
Albuquerque police detectives obtained surveillance video that showed a gray sedan fleeing the scene after Naeem Hussain was shot. Tips from the public and additional surveillance video helped detectives identify the vehicle and they named Syed as the owner of the car.
Syed was arrested Aug. 8 more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) from his Albuquerque home. He told authorities he was on his way to Texas, citing the ambush-style killings as his concern.
According to the initial criminal complaint filed by Albuquerque police, investigators determined that bullet casings found in Syed's vehicle matched the caliber of the weapons believed to have been used in the July 26 and Aug. 1 killings and that casings found at the crime scenes were linked to guns found at Syed's home and in his vehicle.
Federal authorities in court filings have pointed to cellphone records and accused one of Syed's sons of possibly helping his father track Naeem Hussain before he was killed. Shaheen Syed's attorney has argued that those accusations were thin and dismissed prosecutors' claims that the younger Syed provided a false address when purchasing a gun from a local shop in 2021.
NM city, victim of government burn, now faces water shortage - By Susan Montoya Bryan And Brittany Peterson Associated Press
In the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, buzzing chainsaws interrupt the serenity. Crews are hustling to remove charred trees and other debris that have been washing down the mountainsides in the wake of the largest wildfire in New Mexico's recorded history, choking rivers and streams.
Heavy equipment operators are moving boulders dislodged by the daily torrential summer rains that have followed the flames.
Workers have dug trenches and built barriers to help keep the flood of muddy, ash-laden runoff from causing more damage so it won't further contaminate the drinking water supply for the community of more than 10,000 that sits at the edge of the forest.
The clock is ticking for Las Vegas, a college town and economic hub for ranchers and farmers who have called this rural expanse of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range home for generations.
It has less than 30 days of drinking water left.
Events have been canceled in an effort to discourage more people from coming to town. Residents are showering with buckets in hopes of salvaging extra water for other uses. Restaurants are worried they may have to cut back on serving their signature red and green chile dishes. The three universities that call Las Vegas home are coming up with conservation plans as the school year kicks off.
"It is disheartening to our families and our children to not know that they may not have water in a month from now," said Leo Maestas, the city manager.
It was just months earlier that thousands of residents from Las Vegas and dozens of surrounding mountain villages were forced to pack up their belongings, load their livestock into trailers and flee as the wildfire raged, fueled by unprecedented hot, dry winds.
They watched from a distance as an area larger than Los Angeles was devoured by a conflagration sparked by the federal government when two planned burns meant to reduce the threat of wildfire went awry due to a combination of human error and outdated modeling that didn't account for extreme weather. Hundreds of homes were destroyed and livelihoods lost.
Amid an undercurrent of heartbreak and anger, residents are feeling the sting yet again as their water supply dwindles as a result and the pressures of climate change show no signs of letting up.
"I mean what else could possibly happen?" asked Las Vegas Mayor Louie Trujillo, not wanting to tempt fate.
Trujillo said the community is no stranger to watering restrictions as drought has long been part of life in northern New Mexico. He and other residents have become experts at using just half the water of the average American, or about 44 gallons.
"So asking the citizens to do even more is quite an imposition. It's very hard," said Trujillo, as he prepared for federal emergency managers to arrive with another truckload of bottled water for distribution to community members.
Utility managers have been unable to tap into their usual source — the Gallinas River — since it has been choked by ash and debris.
Trujillo declared an emergency in late July and New Mexico's governor followed with her own declaration, freeing up funding to help pay for the installation of a temporary treatment system that will allow for water from a nearby lake to be used to supplement supplies.
City officials expect that system to be installed next week. It will be capable of treating about 1.5 millions gallons (5.7 million litres) a day, about what the city consumes daily. But it's only a Band-Aid, Trujillo said.
Like other western cities, Las Vegas is in search of alternative sources of water as nearby rivers and reservoirs shrink amid hotter, drier conditions. The wildfire complicates matters.
New Mexico's largest city, for example, was forced to stop pulling water from the Rio Grande this year as it dried up within Albuquerque city limits for the first time in decades. And for the second year in a row, Arizona and Nevada will face cuts in the amount of water they can draw from the Colorado River as the western drought becomes more acute.
Las Vegas is hoping the temporary treatment system will slow down the ticking clock as crews continue work upstream to keep more ash, debris and sediment from clogging the Gallinas River that feeds the city's reservoirs.
Trujillo said a permanent treatment system on the river could cost more than $100 million, far beyond the city's means. There's no timetable for designing or building such a system.
What is heartbreaking for the mayor is that the region is experiencing one of the best monsoon seasons in several years. Had it not been for the fire and the contamination, the city would have been able to capture the storm runoff pulsing through the river and bolster its reservoirs for the future as drought persists.
For Trujillo, his neighbors, the governor and members of Congress, the blame for the current water crisis falls squarely on the federal government.
"We're going to continue to hold them responsible and expect them to pay for all of the improvements that we're going to have to make," the mayor said.
Daniel Patterson, a resource adviser with the U.S. Forest Service, called it an all-hands-on-deck approach as the agency works with local officials to protect the watershed that supplies Las Vegas. He acknowledged the Forest Service's responsibility to restore the watershed as well as people's access to their private property and traditional practices like gathering firewood from the forest.
"Those are all top priorities right now," he said. "But it's a heavy lift and it's a long haul."
President Joe Biden flew over the burn scar during a quick visit in June, promising the federal government would step up. Still, many residents feel abandoned.
Danny Lopez, who owns a ranch just outside of Las Vegas, called the past few months a nightmare. The fire charred nearly one square mile of land where he used to graze his cattle. His fences burned and the roof of his home was singed, damage now worsened by the summer rains.
His alfalfa fields have been compromised by the mud, ash and debris rolling off the surrounding hillsides. And with electricity cut off for months, he and his neighbors lost everything they had stockpiled in their fridges and freezers.
His request for aid from FEMA is tangled in red tape, with federal officials requiring something that simply does not exist for many rural properties — a street address.
"They don't understand the devastation," said Lopez, who has been forced to reduce his herd by half. "They don't know how the people live here and how they get by here."
Charlie Sandoval is the owner of Charlie's Bakery Café in downtown Las Vegas. It has served as a gathering spot for the community and travelers for decades, made famous by its homemade chile recipes, fresh tortillas and cinnamon rolls.
It takes as much as 13 gallons (49 litres) of water to make one big batch of chile. Then there's the water needed for the tortillas and the dough for the pastries.
"Everything that we do just takes water," Sandoval said. "And it just really scares me. What would happen if we run out of water, you know?"
The bakery is using more plastic and paper items to cut down on dishwashing. But supplies are expensive, and the bottom line is taking a hit.
If more restrictions are imposed, Sandoval worries about how long he can keep the bakery open and what that might mean for his employees.
At the end of July, the city implemented Stage 6 restrictions, meaning no more outdoor watering, no refilling of swimming pools, restaurants cannot serve water to customers unless requested, and no new water accounts can be activated.
For City Manager Maestas, it's been a sleepless month. More than once he's jumped into his pickup in the middle of the night and rushed down to check on a diversion point along the Gallinas River. Standing there, he stares down an impossible decision: If the contaminated river rises fast enough post-monsoon, will he direct the flow into town and flood homes? Or will he further pollute the city's back-up drinking water supply?
Fear, sadness and then anxiety set in. He wants to make the right decision.
"No city official or government official should ever be put in that predicament," he said.
Heavy rain floods streets across Dallas-Fort Worth area - By Jamie Stengle And Jake Bleiberg Associated Press
Heavy rains across the drought-stricken Dallas-Fort Worth area on Monday caused streets to flood, submerging vehicles as officials warned motorists to stay off the roads and water seeped into some homes and businesses.
"The Dallas-Fort Worth area was pretty much ground zero for the heaviest rain overnight," said Daniel Huckaby, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
The official National Weather Service record station at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport reported 9.19 inches (23 centimeters) of rain in the 24 hours ending at 2 p.m. Monday. That ranked second for the top 10 most rain over 24 hours in Dallas on record. The most was 9.57 inches (24.3 centimeters) that fell Sept. 4-5, 1932.
"We've been in drought conditions, so the ground soaked up a lot of it but when you get that much rain over that short a period of time, it's certainly going to cause flooding, and that's what we saw, definitely in the urban areas here," Huckaby said.
Across the area, rainfall amounts ranged from less than 1 inch (3 centimeters) to over 15 inches (38 centimeters), said National Weather Service meteorologist Sarah Barnes. By Monday afternoon, the rain had moved out of the area, she said.
"There was quite a bit of variation in the rainfall totals," Barnes said.
At least one fatality was blamed on the downpours as emergency responders across the area reported responding to hundreds of high-water calls. A 60-year-old woman was killed in the Dallas suburb of Mesquite when flood waters from South Mesquite Creek swept her vehicle from Texas 352 westbound at Interstate 635, officials said.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, as presiding officer of the Dallas County commissioners, declared a disaster had occurred in the county and requested federal and state assistance for affected individuals.
In Balch Springs, a Dallas suburb where last month a grass fire that started in a tinder-dry open field damaged over two dozen homes, officials on Monday rescued people from flooded homes. Fire Chief Eric Neal said they rescued four people from one flooded home and one person from another.
"We had to get to them by boat and pull them to safety," said Neal, who added that others chose to stay in their flooded homes.
"As the rain stopped, the water started to recede pretty quick," Neal said.
At White Rock Lake in Dallas, where the water level has been low through the baking summer months, people with umbrellas and water-proof jackets braved the rain Monday morning to watch the deluge transform the lake's previously dry concrete spillway into what looked like a roaring river.
Trenton Cody, 29, said he drove over Monday morning to take a look at the effect the floodwaters were having on the lake's dam.
"It looks like we're high in the mountains somewhere with some like Class V rapids, which is crazy," Cody said.
Huckaby said that the flooding started overnight on streets and interstates.
"It fell very, very quickly," Huckaby said. "We had some locations there in Dallas that had more than 3 inches (8 centimeters) of rain even in one hour."
He noted that with so much concrete in urban areas, "there's just only so much that the drain systems can handle."
The water seeped into some businesses. Peter Tarantino, who owns Tarantino's Cicchetti Bar and Record Lounge in Dallas, told The Dallas Morning News that about 6 inches of water flowed into the dining room, but had receded by late morning.
He said he may be able to salvage the furniture but he'll need to replace rugs and carpets.
"I'm hoping by Thursday we'll be able to open up the bar with a few snacks," he told the newspaper. "I don't give up too easily."
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said on Twitter that based on preliminary damage assessments, he was declaring a state of disaster in Dallas County and requesting state and federal assistance.
Meanwhile, the weather caused hundreds of delays and cancellations in and out of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and at Dallas Love Field.
With the amount of rain that fell Monday, this August now ranks as the second-wettest on record for the area. As of 2 p.m., the National Weather Service reported total rainfall for August of 10.08 inches (25 centimeters) at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. The wettest August was 10.33 inches (26 centimeters) in 1915.
"It will probably put a small dent on the drought I would imagine but I don't think it's going to get rid of it by any means," Barnes said.
She said that over the next week, there are only low chances of more rain.
"Unless we continue to see rain, we'll just probably see drought conditions worsen again," Barnes said.
Farther west, about 60 people were forced to evacuate after a levee was breached Monday in a small town near the Arizona-New Mexico state line. That followed a weekend of flash floods across the Southwest that also swept away one woman who is still missing in Utah's Zion National Park.