Samaritan's Purse help Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire victims salvage memories - Albuquerque Journal

Samaritan’s Purse help Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire victims salvage memories

Candlesticks are among the items recovered by volunteers with Samaritan’s Purse in the ruins of Stephanie Urtado-Deland and Joe Deland’s home in Mora County. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

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.

Rachel Marcengill of Bluffton, S.C., one of a team of workers with the evangelical Christian aid organization Samaritan’s Purse, helps to uncover objects of value from the ashes of a house decimated by the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

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.

Workers with Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian humanitarian aid organization based in North Carolina, help Joe Deland and his wife, Stephanie Urtado-Deland, search for items worth retrieving from the ruins of their Mora County home, which was destroyed by the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire. Samaritan’s Purse has been in New Mexico since June 5. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

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.

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