Red Cross Honors Heroes Around New Mexico

On May 22, the University of New Mexico Student Union Ballroom was full of ordinary, everyday people, but amongst the crowd were real-life, local heroes as volunteers, emergency responders, law enforcement and good Samaritans who were all recognized at the 2012 Red Cross Real Heroes event for performing unselfish and outstanding deeds to serve residents of New Mexico during everyday efforts and emergencies. Amongst the heroes, was Rio Arriba County’s very own Emergency Preparedness Director, Mateo DeVargas.

The Rio Arriba County Fire and Response, which DeVargas represented at the event, was among the 39 entities being honored as “Humanitarian Heroes” for efforts made during the 2011 Las Conchas Fire, which was the largest wildfire in New Mexico state history. The fire, which burned more than 150,000 acres, started on June 26, 2011 and was not contained until August 3, 2011. DeVargas and his team were directly involved by collaborating on coordination efforts, which provided fire engines, ambulances and personnel to evacuate nursing homes and the Los Alamos Medical Center.

“It was a great honor to represent the County’s Fire and Response team,” said DeVargas. “I work with some amazing people and it was touching to see all the responders from around the state being honored in such a sincere and joyous manner.”

Among the special guests, was New Mexico Governor, Susana Martinez. As the main speaker, Governor Martinez spoke to the audience about her personal experience during the Las Conchas Fire and how she forged personal relationships with fire personnel and volunteers. “I have no doubt that our losses last year, during our wildfire season, would have been greater if it wasn’t for the tireless efforts of fire personnel…I could see hope, I could see resolve, passion, and triumph,” said Governor Martinez. “True heroes are those who run into the disaster; those who take down the disaster and give us hope that everything is going to be fine.”

Along with those being honored for the Las Conchas Fire efforts, awards were also given to 11 other individuals, who were recognized for heroic and outstanding deeds in their communities and during dire emergencies. These award recipients were sponsored by businesses throughout New Mexico.

To view Governor Martinez’s entire speech and to view Las Conchas Heroes being recognized by the Governor, please go to and link onto the County’s YouTube page.

-Erika L. Martinez, May 2012