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Thursday, May 31, 2001

Wildfire threatens homes near Fort Davis

Staff Writer

PECOS, Thurs., May 31, 2001 -- Wildfires that broke out on Memorial Day in the  Davis Mountains have burned around 2,000 acres so far and  are threatening homes in the Davis Mountain Resort southwest of  Fort Davis.

Area firefighters have been battling the two separate wildfires for the past three days, with the other fire located between Fort Davis and Balmorhea. Volunteer firemen from Pecos were called out Wednesday night to help join the effort against the wildfires, which are located about 50 and 75 miles south of town.

Director of EMS in Fort Davis Sharon Faulkner said that the Fort Davis area experienced lighting storms Monday that resulted in the wildfires when lightning touched ground.

"Monday evening we had a storm come through that gave lightning but no rain," she said.

Lightning struck in two places, Madera Canyon and Pine Peak near the Davis Mountains Resort.

Although the town of Fort Davis is not in danger, some structures at the resort are in the path of the Pine Peak fire.

"The fire at Pine Peak is approximately four-tenths of a mile away from structures in the resort," Faulkner said.

She said the fire at Pine Peak is approximately 12 miles from Fort Davis on the backside of the resort and the Madera Canyon fire is approximately 25 miles northeast of Fort Davis.

This morning the Madera Canyon fire was about 10 miles away from the McDonald Observatory.

Faulkner said that the Fort Davis firefighters have requested and received help from both the Texas Forest Service and the National Forestry Service, along with local fire departments.

Along with firefighters from Pecos, others from Fort Stockton, Marfa and Toyah have all assisted the Fort Davis Fire Department in fighting the blazes.

Faulkner said that yesterday alone there were between 50 and 75 firefighters assisting in the efforts.

"Our local resources are getting tired," she said.

As of today both fires have burned approximately 2000 acres if land with the fires still going strong.

Faulkner said that as of this morning the firefighters have not had to fight with the wind but later this afternoon she said that the forecast is for gusts to increase to around 20 miles per hour.

In spite of the constant fire fighting no one has been injured in the wildfires, according to Faulkner.

"Everyone's been safe so far," she said.

Meanwhile, to the northwest of Pecos, a wildfire that has consumed nearly 1,700 acres in the Guadalupe Mountains has forced U.S. Forest Service officials to close four forest roads and two trails Wednesday.

"The four roads and the trails were threatened by the Hidden Complex Fire, which is burning in a national forest about 10 miles west of Carlsbad Caverns National Park," fire information officer Karen Takai said.

"Carlsbad Caverns has not been threatened by the blaze," she said.

"Weather conditions improved Wednesday with winds that had gusted up to 40 mph Tuesday and fanned the flames nearly diminishing," she said.

"On Tuesday, fire officials had said nearly 2,000 acres had burned, but reduced the figure to 1,700 acres after they received more detailed information about the area," Takai said.

She added that fire officials were working on more accurate global positioning mapping of the blaze and further revisions were possible.

"No buildings had been threatened by the blaze, and no injuries were reported,"she said.

The Hidden Complex Fire started as three separate fires, all caused by lightning strikes Friday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

RCDC projects add to county's census numbers

Staff Writer

PECOS, Thurs., May 31, 2001 -- Reeves County's population declined by 17 percent between  1990 and 2000, according to figures released earlier this year by the  U.S. Census Bureau.

But the county's population will likely be back up to its 1990 levels when the census bureau does its first mid-decade estimate about 18 months from now, with only one major catch _ all of the new additions to the county will be prison inmates.

According to census figures, Reeves County's population as of April 1, 2000 was 13,137 people, which was down 17 percent from the 15,370 reported in the 1990 census. But since last April, the county has opened its 1,000-bed addition to the Reeves County Detention Center, and on Tuesday county commissioner approved another expansion of the facility, which is designed to add an addition 960 beds to the 2,000-bed prison.

Virtually all of the prisoners at the RCDC are U.S. Bureau of Prison inmates serving time on either drug or illegal immigration charges, both from within the Pecos Division of the U.S. District Court system and from areas outside the Pecos Division. But while the RCDC is only a temporary home for the prisoners, Steve Murdock, Chief Demographer for the Texas State Data Bureau of the U.S. Census, said they'll be treated the same as full-time county residents when the population figures are updated.

"Prisoners are counted on the location where they're imprisoned," Murdock said. "It's the same as college students. They're counted in the town where their school is located."

The latest addition to the RCDC should be completed about the time the Census Bureau does their next estimate, which Murdock said would be either in late 2002 or early 2003.

Adding up to 1,960 inmates to the county's population will shift the demographic numbers of Reeves County, Murdock said. "All the inmates will be counted like they live there, so having a prison with all male inmates will affect the sex ratio," he said.

Currently, Reeves County's population is already weighed towards more men than women, thanks mainly to the 1,149 inmates who were already at the RCDC and other local jail facilities last April 1. The Census Bureau said there are 6,940 men living in the county and only 6,197 women. The 53-47 percent ratio is opposite the national average, as there are more women overall in the United States than there are men.

Murdock said the prison expansion wouldn't affect other census numbers, such as median income of county residents, which some businesses use as a basis for locating in areas.

"They (the inmates) do not have a source of income, so they won't be zeroed out," in that category, he said.

The U.S. Census Bureau released demographic numbers for Texas' 254 counties earlier this month. Overall, they showed Reeves County's population was about three-quarters Hispanic, with over 90 percent of the population in households. The average age of county residents was 32.1 years, with 35½ percent of the population under the age of 19 and 12½ percent of the population age 65 or older.

Over 45 percent of the households had children under the age of 18, while 28.7 percent had members over the age of 65. The average household size was just under three people, while the average family size in the county was just under 3½ people.

Housing units in Reeves County had only an 81 percent occupancy rate, with 4,091 or 5,043 properties occupied.

Other numbers will continue to be released over the course of 2001, and Murdock said the Census Bureau's 2000 employment numbers will come out either at the end of this year or at the beginning of 2002.

While the Census Bureau's number show the county's population has dropped 17 percent during the decade, the most recent numbers from the Texas Workforce Commission showed the number of jobs in the county was up nine percent during the same 10-year period.

Murdock said the discrepancy could be due to a larger number of families with children moving out of the county, and Pecos-Barstow-Toyah schools have seen their enrollment numbers drop by about 20 percent since the early 1990s. "If you lost families with several kids, because they're in school it won't affect the job market," Murdock said, while adding there could be other conflicting factors between how the Census Bureau counts the labor force and how the TWC counts the local labor force.

"It could be you're comparing apples and oranges," he said.

Police sack northside man on drug charges

Staff Writer

PECOS, Thurs., May 31, 2001 -- A Pecos man was arrested Wednesday night after local  law enforcement agencies raided his home on North Elm Street  and allegedly found cocaine and drug paraphernalia inside, along with  one stolen high school football helmet.

Ismael Valeriano, 21, of Pecos was arrested after the Pecos Police Department, Reeves County Sheriff's Department and the Trans Pecos Narcotics Task Force executed a narcotics search warrant at approximately 11:07 p.m., last night in the 800 block of North Elm St.

A total of 10 officers searched Valeriano's home, according to Police Investigator Kelly Davis.

As a result of that search, the officers discovered the substance believed to be cocaine, a small amount of marijuana and drug paraphernalia used for ingesting cocaine, according to a press release from the Pecos Police Department.

Davis said that the officers also found a Pecos High School football helmet, valued at $400, inside the home.

Valeriano was arrested and charged with felony possession of a controlled substance (cocaine) within 1000 feet of a school (Lamar AEP) and possession of drug paraphernalia.

There were no other arrests in this incident, according to Davis.

"He admitted that it was his," he said.

Valeriano was transported to the Reeves County Jail and released to jail staff for booking.

PHA to again discuss county's golf course plan

PECOS, Thurs., May 31, 2001 -- Reeves County Judge Jimmy Galindo tops the agenda tonight  for the monthly meeting of the Pecos Housing Authority Board, set for  5 p.m. at the PHA office at the intersection of Starley  and Meadowbrook drives.

Galindo, who has addressed the board during each of its past two meetings, said that he plans to propose an intergovernmental agreement between Reeves County and the Housing Authority that would give the county access to land north of the present golf course.

"We would like to use the land to develop two new holes for the golf course," Galindo said.

In exchange for use of the land the county would agree to help the Housing Authority with removal of trash and debris, and also help design an irrigation system for the vacant land north of Interstate 20 and east of Country Club Road so that it could be turned into a park, he said.

The Pecos Rotary Club is currently working on building a rest stop on the southern edge of the same land.

In other business the Authority is scheduled to discuss its capital budget expenditures for fiscal year 2000, annual inspections for housing units, roof damage to Housing Authority sites caused by recent high winds, and a new candidate to serve on the Authority's board of commissioners.

The Pecos Farm Labor Housing (FLH) Board will also meet at 5 p.m. at the same location. In old business the Board will review the 2001 budget and will discuss roof damage to FLH sites caused by recent high winds.

In new business the board is scheduled to discuss and perhaps approve its ongoing movement to change status from a farm labor housing project to a multiple family housing project status.

CCRC completes Community Action Month celebration

PECOS, Thurs., May 31, 2001 -- The Community Council of Reeves County along with  other Community Action Agencies across Texas are  completing celebration of Community Action Month in Texas today.

The event is part of a national effort designed to gain support for and raise awareness of community action and its impact locally and nationally. In connection with the effort, Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed a proclamation recognizing the accomplishments of CAAs, and resolutions were passed in the Texas Legislature by Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos and Rep. Elliott Naishtat.

CAAs were created in 1964 to fight poverty under the Economic Opportunity Act signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Since then, Texas has a network of 46 CAAs, which provide a bridge to self-sufficency for many Texans and their families.

During Community Action Month CAAs showcased their work of their agencies and volunteers, public officials and others who have worked diligently on behalf of low-income residents of the community.

For more information about CAAs in Texas, visit the TACAA website at www.tacaa.or or call 1-800-992-9767.


High Wednesday 104. Low this morning 68. Forecast for  tonight: Mostly cloudy with a less than 20 percent chance of showers  or thunderstorms. Low in the lower 60s. Southeast wind 5 to 15  mph. Friday: Partly cloudy. High in the upper 90s. Southeast wind 10 to  20 mph. Friday night: Partly cloudy. Low in the mid 60s. Saturday:  Partly cloudy with a slight chance of showers or thunderstorms.  High from the lower to mid 90s. Sunday through wednesday: Partly  cloudy. Lows from the mid to upper 60s. Highs from the mid 90s to near 103.


Ima Robinson

Irma Robinson

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