New Mexico wildfires: Rain helps, but South Fork, Salt fires near Ruidoso still uncontained (2024)

Alex DriggarsLubbock Avalanche-Journal

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

A Friday update from the New Mexico Forestry Division 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 dozers and 16 water tenders were working on suppressing the wildfires in addition to helicopters and air tankers which were on standby.

The update said rain and increased humidity Wednesday and Thursday helped to quell fire growth.

"The South Fork and Salt fires experienced minimal fire behavior on Thursday due to the variable precipitation on Wednesday and persistent high humidity into Thursday," the update reads. "The cooler weather and moderate fire conditions observed on Thursday are expected to continue into Friday. Firefighters will continue constructing firelines and utilizing hand crews and bulldozers to protect homes, properties and critical infrastructure."

"Crews on the South Fork fire continue engaging the fire with hand tools directly at its edge, utilizing hose along handlines and dozer lines to extinguish smoldering fuels and building fireline with machinery. Firefighters will also continue to conduct mop up operations, extinguishing and/or removing burning material along the fire’s edge to reduce the likelihood of fire creeping past control lines, where feasible," it continues.

"Firefighters on the Salt fire will construct control lines, prepare new line where needed and conduct point protection to protect private property and critical infrastructure in the area. Ground and air ignitions will be used where needed to burn out fuels between constructed firelines and active fire.

"Damage and structure assessments have commenced, along with adding additional protection needs as they are discovered."

Officials from the Southwest Area Incident Management Team No. 5 held a virtual community meeting Thursday evening, which can be viewed here.

2 dead, 1,400 injured in Ruidoso fires

Two people were confirmed dead Wednesday as a result of the wildfire outbreak that was still raging around Ruidoso while the community also faced the threat of flash flooding following heavy rains in the afternoon.

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

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

In addition to the deaths,the New Mexico Forestry Division estimatesaround 1,400 structures have been lost in the fires so far.

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

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grishamissued a state of emergencyTuesday for Lincoln County and the Mescalero Apache Reservation in order to direct more state resources to help manage the disaster.

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

How did the Ruidoso fire start?

The cause of the fire remains 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 results will be shared when the investigation is concluded, Lujan Grisham said.

Evacuations remain in effect for Ruidoso, Ruidoso Downs

Local officials ordered evacuations Monday evening for the Village of Ruidoso and Ruidoso Downs — representing a combined population of more than 10,000. Those evacuation orders remained in effect by 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 (up to the Outlaw Golf Course), West Gavilan, Sun Valley, Sierra Vista, Villa Madonna, Ski Run Road, all areas west of N.M. State Road 48, and all of Gavilan Canyon Road from N.M. 48 to McDonald's.

"Please stay out of the area, and do not attempt to get back into the Village," Ruidoso officials said in aTuesday update. "There are no open roads into Ruidoso, and the New Mexico State Police will have roadblocks at all entry points and they will not allow you to pass."

Updates on the fires and evacuations are being shared via radio broadcast at 1490 AM, thevillageandcounty websitesand social media.

Fifteen shelters were available for evacuees by Friday, including:

  • Capitan High School— Capitan
  • Carrizozo High School— 800 D Ave., Carrizozo
  • Christ Community Church— 2960 N. Scenic Drive, Alamogordo
  • Church on the Move— 901 W. Brasher Rd., Roswell
  • Church on the Move Dream Center— 2700 W. Second St., Roswell
  • Eastern New Mexico University— 52 University Blvd., Roswell
  • Godfrey Athletic Center— 101 W. College Blvd., Roswell
  • Inn of the Mountain Gods— 287 Carrizo Canyon Rd., Mescalero

The Avalanche-Journal's Adam D. Young contributed to this report.

New Mexico wildfire map: Track fires and smoke

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

Ruidoso webcam: See a live look at the village

This live view from Ruidoso's Midtown is courtesy Additional webcams are availablehere.

New Mexico wildfires: Rain helps, but South Fork, Salt fires near Ruidoso still uncontained (2024)


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