Wildfires near Ruidoso, New Mexico still not under control, although rain is helping

More than a thousand firefighters and other personnel continued their work Friday to control the South Fork and Salt fires near Ruidoso, New Mexico, as the deadly blazes remained uncontained for nearly 24 000 acres.

A Friday update from the New Mexico Division of Forestry estimated the South Fork Fire at 16,349 acres and the Salt Fire at 7,652 acres, both 0% contained.

Twenty-two crews, 87 engines, 15 bulldozers and 16 water tenders were working to extinguish the wildfires, in addition to helicopters and air tankers that were on standby.

The update says rain and increased humidity Wednesday and Thursday helped suppress fire growth.

“The South Fork and Salt fires experienced minimal fire behavior on Thursday due to variable precipitation on Wednesday and continued high humidity through Thursday,” the update said. “The cooler weather and moderate fire conditions seen Thursday are expected to continue Friday. Firefighters will continue to construct fire lines and use hand crews and bulldozers to protect homes, properties and critical infrastructure.”

“Crews involved in the South Fork Fire continue to attack the fire with hand tools directly at the edge, using hoses along hand lines and dozer lines to extinguish smoldering fuels, and constructing a fire line with machinery Firefighters will also continue to conduct mop-up operations, extinguishing and/or removing burning materials along the edge of the fire to reduce the likelihood of the fire moving beyond the control lines, when This is possible,” he continues.

“Firefighters involved in the Salt Fire will construct control lines, prepare a new line if necessary, and provide point protection to protect private property and critical infrastructure in the area. Ground and air ignitions will be used as necessary to burn fuels between constructed fire lines and active fires.

“Damage and structural assessments have begun, with additional protection needs being added as they are discovered.”

Officials from the Southwest Zone 5 Incident Management Team held a virtual community meeting Thursday evening, which can be viewed here.

Two people were confirmed dead on Wednesday following wildfires still raging around Ruidoso, while the community also faced the threat of flash flooding following heavy afternoon rain.

New Mexico State Police have confirmed that Patrick Pearson, 60, died in the South Fork fire as it continues to encroach on the popular New Mexico tourist village. Police said Pearson was found burned on the side of the road near the Swiss Chalet Inn on North Mechem Road on Tuesday.

NMSP said another person was found dead in the driver's seat of a car on Ranier Road on Tuesday, but could not immediately be identified due to the extent of the person's burns.

In addition to the deaths, the New Mexico Forestry Division estimates that about 1,400 structures have been destroyed so far in the fires.

The fires broke out Monday morning on Mescalero Apache tribal lands, and the cause has not yet been determined. Mescalero officials initially remained in command of the fire response, but transferred command to a complex incident management team Wednesday morning.

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham declared a state of emergency for Lincoln County and the Mescalero Apache Reservation on Tuesday to direct more state resources to disaster management.

The governor urged people searching for loved ones to call 833-NM-FIRE-6 (833-663-4736).

The cause of the fire is still under investigation and people should refrain from speculation, Lujan Grisham said at a news conference in Roswell Wednesday evening, the El Paso Times reported. She was joined by Roswell Mayor Timothy Jennings and U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury.

Six investigators are working to find the cause, and the results will be shared once the investigation is complete, Lujan Grisham said.

Local authorities on Monday evening ordered the evacuation of the villages of Ruidoso and Ruidoso Downs, which have a combined population of more than 10,000. Those evacuation orders were still in effect Friday morning.

Other areas under evacuation orders included Upper Canyon, Brady Canyon, Ponderosa Heights, Alpine Village, Cedar Creek, Lower Eagle Creek, Alto Lakes, Sonterra 1, 2 and 3, Alto (to Outlaw Golf Course) , West Gavilan, Sun Valley. , Sierra Vista, Villa Madonna, Ski Run Road, all areas west of NM State Road 48 and all of Gavilan Canyon Road from NM 48 to McDonald's.

“Please stay out of the area and do not attempt to return to the village,” Ruidoso officials said in an update Tuesday. “There are no open roads into Ruidoso, and the New Mexico State Police will have roadblocks at all points of entry and will not allow you to pass.”

Fire and evacuation updates are shared via 2:90 p.m. radio, village and county websites, and social media.

On Friday, fifteen shelters were available for evacuees, including:

  • Capitan High School — Captain
  • Carrizozo High School — 800 avenue D, Carrizozo
  • Community Church of Christ — 2960 N. Scenic Byway, Alamogordo
  • The Church on the move — 901 W. Brasher Rd., Roswell
  • Dream Center Church in Motion — 2700 W. Second St., Roswell
  • Eastern New Mexico University — 52 University Boulevard, Roswell
  • Godfrey Sports Center — 101 W. College Blvd., Roswell
  • Inn of the Mountain Gods — 287 Carrizo Canyon Road, Mescalero

Adam D. Young of the Avalanche-Journal contributed to this report.

New Mexico wildfire map: Track the fires and smoke

If you don't see the map, click here.

Ruidoso Webcam: Watch the village live

This live view from Midtown of Ruidoso is courtesy of Additional webcams are available here.

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