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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Top Stories

Tuesday, May 19, 1998

T-storms help stop, start mountain fires

From Staff and Wire Reports
A range fire that had charred about 64,000 acres of
land in the Chinati Mountains was 90-percent contained as of
Monday, authorities said.

Texas Forest Service officials said the remaining 10 percent
of the blaze was burning in terrain where it was difficult
to fight.

Other blazes have cropped up, a result of Sunday lightning
storms that brought little rain. The new fires are located
near McDonald Observatory in Jeff Davis County and in the
Davis Mountains State Park west of Fort Davis.

One employee at the observatory complained, "We're just
overwhelmed with smoke."

Rainfall in the area on Sunday night proved to be a mixed
blessing, putting out some of the fire but also dousing
backfires set by firefighters to burn away fuel that kept
the blaze moving.

A deputy at the Jeff Davis Sheriff's Office feared that with
the new fires "all West Texas may burn up before this is

The original fire is believed to have started around May 6
south of Marfa.

Officials study haze from southern fires

Associated Press Writer
DALLAS -- Environmental experts say they couldn't have
predicted the haze that's blanketing Texas from Central
American forest fires.

But they hope to know today exactly what everyone's
breathing when they get test results back from throughout
the state.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Texas Natural
Resource Conservation Commission have placed monitors in
Austin, Houston, Dallas, Corpus Christi, Brownsville, San
Antonio and Galveston to detect unhealthful particles in the

``This is an event that people say they don't have a
comparison to,'' EPA spokesman Dave Bary said. ``This is
once-in-a-lifetime. The levels we're seeing haven't been
experienced in 50 years.

``Was it preventable? Not from our perspective. Were we
forewarned? When it was here, we realized we had a

Fires have blazed across Mexico since December, but
meteorologists say there was no way to predict the haze.

Forecasters expected seasonal rain in April and May.
Instead, Mexico has experienced a sudden, severe drought and
abnormally high temperatures.

``I don't know if we could have known the smoke would have
gotten like this. You can see on the satellite in North
Texas we're in an El Nino pattern,'' said Jim Stefkovich,
warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather
Service regional headquarters in Fort Worth. ``The weather
pattern changed fairly quickly.''

A team of United States disaster specialists and
firefighters is in Mexico this week, trying to determine the
best way to attack the fires that have scorched more than
600,000 acres and killed 51 people.

Meanwhile, heavy haze from the fires has prompted the TNRCC
to extend its health alert to mid-Wednesday. Texans have
suffered itchy, burning eyes, noses and throats, and the
agency has urged people to avoid outdoor activity.

An unusual combination of forces sparked the haze, said
Larry Neal, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas.
Gramm and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, both
urged helping Mexico.

``None of the people who live in the area have broken with
the annual routine practice of burning off chaff from their
fields,'' Neal said. ``This year, because of the drought,
primarily agricultural fires have gotten out of control,
forming nearly 10,000 individual fires at one point.''

Once the smoke blew into Texas and surrounding Gulf Coast
states, U.S. officials decided it was time to help douse the
flames. That created a sort of protocol Catch-22, because
the U.S. can't provide help unless Mexico requests it.

``The Mexican government is loath to ask our government for
anything. They do on occasion and we are glad when they
do,'' Neal said. ``In this case, it is plainly in our
interest to help.''

Mexican ambassador to the U.S. Jesus Reyes Heroles said at a
weekend press conference his country only asked for help
last week when the fires grew intense.

``We were hoping for rain,'' Reyes said. ``The domestic
resources had been enough to keep the phenomenon under
control, but May has been extraordinary.''

The Environmental Protection Agency also said it could not
have predicted the influx of smoke, spokesman Dave Bary

``This is an exceptional event, and the only way I think
this could have been prevented is if someone looked at a
real-time satellite image and watched over a period of days
and saw this smoke start coming up from the South,'' Bary
said. ``That's outside the realm of what's normally done in
monitoring activity.''

Although it's taken until this month for federal help to
arrive in Mexico, Texas firefighters helped Mexico on a
state level in April.

The state of Nuevo Leon in northern Mexico requested help
through Gov. George W. Bush's office, and Texas sent forest
service advisers to recommend firefighting methods, said Jo
Moss, spokeswoman for the Texas Division of Emergency

``In Texas, we can help our neighbors in a Mexican state at
their request in an advisory-type team,'' Ms. Moss said,
``but it's got to be done in very specific ways.''

Development board to hire coordinator

Staff Writer
Interviews are underway for a full-time economic development
coordinator for Reeves County, and Economic Development
Board members hope to make a final decision later this week.

Various members of the Reeves County Economic Development
board and its personnel committee conducted two interviews
early last week, but it will take a full board meeting for
any final decision to be made.

Five applications have been received by the development
board, with two more expected.

Board Secretary Linda Gholson said that some applicants for
the position have held the job in other communities and in
other states.

Such an employee will help retain local business while
working to promote the area to outside business interests,
Gholson said.

Describing the benefits of such an employee, she said, "A
full-time employee can spend a lot more time and attention
[on their job] than can those who operate on a volunteer
basis and have other jobs."

Reeves County, the Town of Pecos City and the Reeves County
Hospital Board have all committed funds for the salary of a
full-time coordinator.

While a final decision could come later this week, the
Reeves County Economic Development board's meeting time has
yet to be announced.

City gets some rain, then loses water pressure

Even when it rains in Pecos in 1998, local residents end up
short of water.

That was the case early this morning, after the city
received its first measurable rainfall in over two months.
That's because as a result of the storm that brought the
water, Pecos residents were left temporarily with very low
water pressure due to an electrical problem, according to
Town of Pecos City Water Superintendent Octavio Garcia.

"The problem was corrected as soon as it was located and as
soon as we were notified of it," said Garcia.

Lightning from the thunderstorm which passed through town
just after midnight burned some fuses at the city warehouse,
which turned off the electricity at the booster pump located
there, according to Garcia.

"Nothing was pumping through, but it was back in working
order as soon as power was restored," said Garcia. The low
water pressure continued until about 7 a.m. today.

"It just caught us while we were asleep, but everything was
restored quickly," he said.

The storm itself passed through the area in about 30 minutes
and left just .03 of rain in Pecos. However, it was the
first rainfall of any kind since March 15, when .01 of rain
was recorded in Pecos.

For the first 5½ months of the year, Pecos, rain total
remain well below normal, at just .15 inches. The city also
suffered through a drought in the first half of 1996, when
only .75 inches of rain fell from January through mid-June.

Ocon given 66 months in pot possession case

Staff Writer
Senior Judge Lucius Bunton slapped a 66-month prison
sentence on Eduardo Quezada Ocon, 29, of 911 E. Fourth St.,
on Monday.

Ocon, aka Eddie Saenz, was convicted of possessing 593.04
pounds of marijuana with intent to distribute.

Also receiving a stiff sentence for illegal re-entry after
deportation subsequent to conviction for aggravated felony
was Jose Carmen Baylon-Espino. He will serve 46 months on
the original charge and six months for revocation of
supervised release.

Jerralee Dekle Pirtle, 42, of El Paso, was sentenced to 42
months in prison for tampering with a consumer product -
controlled substances that can be injected into an IV line.

Others sentenced were:

Rachel Dianne Benavides, 41 months, marijuana possession;

Joselito Diaz, 30 months, marijuana possession;

Juan Manuel Gardea-Rubio, 12 months plus one day, marijuana

Jesus Machado-Griego, 101 days (time served) for false claim
to citizenship;

and Luis Rico-Urita, 37 months for marijuana possession.

Judge Bunton accepted guilty pleas from Martin Mungia,
marijuana possession; Pedro Cuevas-Gonzalez, marijuana
possession; Mario Escobar-Robles, immigration violation;
Jesus Jose Salcido-Alvarado, marijuana possession; Eliza
Romo Aguilar and Estanisloa Aguilar, marijuana possession;
and Emilio Nicolas-Romero, marijuana possession.

He presided for jury selection in four cases that will be
tried the week of June 1 before 5th Circuit Judge Emilio

Criminal defendants are Efrain Soto-Palomar, Omar
Prieto-Trevizo, Carlos Sanchez-Dominguez and Blaza Gonzalez.
In a civil case, Melissa Barnett is suing Dolgencorp of
Texas Inc., d/b/a Dollar General Stores. She claims sexual
harassment while employed by Dollar General.

Lake View begins recovering from fire

SAN ANGELO (AP) -- The fire that consumed Lake View High
School hadn't yet stopped smoldering Monday when the wistful
reminiscences started.

San Angelo residents woke to the news that one of the city's
two high schools had been gutted by fire overnight.

Like so many others, Lake View graduate Jodie Moore was
shocked, said her mother, Lorene Teague.

``She was real upset about it. It was like another home to
her,'' said Ms. Teague, who also has had two sons graduate
from the school.

Authorities said they were called to the school just after
midnight Monday and found the main building saturated with
vaporized oil.

While firefighters were on the scene, the oil ignited,
possibly after a transformer inside short circuited, and
within two minutes the entire building was totally engulfed
by flames.

The fire wasn't contained until about 4:30 a.m., by which
time the main building, including school offices, some
classrooms and the cafeteria, had been destroyed. The gym
and other buildings were saved.

``My guys put in 100 percent effort but there are some
things you're not going to save,'' said San Angelo fire
battalion chief Ricky J. Long, a member of Lake View's first
graduating class in 1974. ``A lot of people's memories are
tied up there, a lot of families' (memories).''

The fire prompted the Texas Education Agency to waive the
last five days of class for Lake View students. School
officials agreed that second semester final exams will carry
an automatic 100 percent and that the final sixth week grade
will be averaged from the fourth and fifth week grades.

All seniors, except those with obviously failing grades,
will be passed.

School officials plan to meet later this week to discuss
replacing the school.

``With two high schools in the town and with one of them
being unusable right now, that's a huge loss,'' said Becky
Brackin, spokeswoman for the San Angelo Independent School

The community was also busy making hasty preparations for a
graduation ceremony for Lake View's roughly 200 seniors, who
lost their caps and gowns and diplomas in the fire.

A local business has promised to have caps and gowns in town
and to print diplomas for Friday night's ceremony, said Ms.


High Monday 83. Low this morning 40. Forecast for tonight:
Clear with a low near 40. East wind 5-10 mph. Wednesday,
sunny with a high in the upper 70s. Southeast wind 5-10 mph.

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Pecos Enterprise
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324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321

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