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Iyanbito residents reveal concerns about safety and emergency response

TWIN LAKES, N.M. – For over 30 years, the Iyanbito community has faced inconsistency because railroad tracks block emergency services, hindering its one-way access.

The issue arose when a brush fire started on March 3. An individual put hot ashes outside during a windy evening, and the ensuing blaze covered 300 square feet of land.

When emergency personnel were contacted, their vehicles were halted by the railroad crossing because a train was passing by.

This incident sparked concerns about community safety and accessibility.

Reyaun Francisco, the chair of the Iyanbito Chapter’s CLUPC, said emergency personnel took a while to arrive at the scene, partly due to the singular arterial crossing of railroad tracks.

“We really struggle with the entrance,” said Eugene Marshall, the facility maintenance specialist at Iyanbito Chapter.

Roughly 300 trains are heavily trafficked in the western part of the U.S., and the Southern Transcon railway allows Amtrak and BSNF trains to chain through New Mexico, transporting cargo and people.

In the 1880s, the Southern Transcon railway was constructed from Chicago and trails through to Southern California, according to the Southern Transcon website.

Freight trains bypass the small community of Iyanbito, which is in Eastern Navajo Agency 15 miles east of Gallup.

“(There’s) only one way in and only one way out,” Marshall said, regarding the only entrance of Iyanbito.

Secondary routes are not optional nor drivable as they involve off-roading into a wash and are eroded.

On March 7, the railroad crossing was closed due to one of the track rails breaking. That created a three-inch gap, which triggered the barriers to come down.

That day, the Gallup McKinley County School and BIA buses were among the backed-up traffic. They ultimately turned around because they had to wait an hour for the track rail to be fixed.

“The buses didn’t pick up students, and others were late for work,” Marshall said. “Some of them had appointments to get to, and they were upset.”

Read the full story in the March 28, 2024, edition of the Navajo Times.

About The Author

Boderra Joe

Boderra Joe is a reporter and photographer at Navajo Times. She has written for Gallup Sun and Rio Grande Sun and has covered various beats. She received second place for Sports Writing for the 2018 New Mexico Better Newspaper Awards. She is from Baahazhł’ah, New Mexico.


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