Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
MORA COUNTY – About 22 years ago, Joe Deland and his wife, Stephanie Urtado-Deland, left Colorado and moved to Stephanie’s ancestral farm along the Rito Cebolla in Mora County.
Her great-grandparents had bought the land in 1902, built a house and raised a family. Generations of her family have come to and gone from there, so the Delands built a home and started farming and raising cows.
It all changed on April 22 when the monstrous Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire ripped through their valley and ate everything in its path – house, barn, ancestral home, everything.
Late last month, about a dozen military veterans and some of their spouses showed up to help the Delands dig through the remains of their home and find whatever items might have value to them.
The group, called Team Patriot, is with Samaritan’s Purse, a nondenominational, evangelical Christian organization headquartered in North Carolina. Samaritan’s Purse helps victims of wars, famines and natural disasters around the world and charges nothing for its services.
Supplied with a tractor-trailer load of tools, the organization rolled into New Mexico on June 5 and started helping victims of the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire. They don’t remove debris. They bring screens to sift through the charred remains, shovels to dig and helping hands. They get rid of burned trees that might be a hazard.
Samaritan’s Purse recently started to wind down its operation in Mora and San Miguel counties, but as of June 27 it had worked with 105 volunteers, logged 3,100 hours and helped 22 families whose property had been burned.
While rain fell over the ashes and twisted roofing of the Delands’ home last month, Samaritan’s Purse members shoved aside sections of wall and metal to find cups and dishes. Also found were a ceramic chicken and lots of coins from a collection. Workers recovered the metal of an old sewing machine and antique glass bottles that had melted into one odd lump of glass.
They also found some items from a jewelry box and, after diligent searching, a steel, cutout silhouette depicting the three crosses on Calvary. The latter discovery drew cheers from aid workers and the Delands.