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The Independent Student Voice of NMSU Since 1907

NMSU Round Up

The Independent Student Voice of NMSU Since 1907

NMSU Round Up

Firefighters gaining control of Ruidoso wildfires, FBI offering reward for more information

Photo courtesy of EarthCam.

Full-time Ruidoso residents were allowed to return to their homes Monday morning after two wildfires scorched over 20,000 acres, destroyed more than a thousand structures and kept residents out of the area for a week.  

On Monday, June 17, fire officials responded to reports of a small fire on the Mescalero Apache reservation, several miles from Midtown Ruidoso. According to the Midtown Ruidoso Live Webcam, there was no smoke visible until the later morning. Another fire was spotted southwest of Ruidoso, once again, on the Mescalero Apache reservation Monday afternoon.  

The fast-growing fire north of Ruidoso was named the South Fork Fire and the fire spotted south of the village was named the Salt Fire. Both were fueled and carried by dry brush and strong winds.  

As the afternoon progressed on June 17, more smoke was visible from the South Fork Fire, and officials tried to contain the flames. However, strong winds in the area carried it towards the northeast. 

Around 5 p.m., it was reported that nearly 500 acres were consumed by the South Fork Fire and heavy black smoke was visible from all parts of town, according to sources in the area. The Salt Fire, south of Ruidoso, was also spreading quickly. 

Both wildfires came just weeks after the Blue 2 Fire was discovered near the burn scar of the Little Bear Fire of 2012, which blazed over 44,000 acres and destroyed more than 200 homes. The Blue 2 Fire was contained and burned just over 7,000 acres.  

The Village of Ruidoso ordered mandatory evacuation orders earlier in the afternoon for people in Upper Canyon, Brady Canyon, Poderosa Heights, Alpine Village and Cedar Creek areas. 

Just after 7 p.m., local authorities stated the South Fork Fire had grown to almost 2,000 acres. A mandatory evacuation for nearly 8,000 Ruidoso residents was ordered. 

Photo courtesy of Ruidoso Live Webcam.

Due to both the South Fork Fire and the Salt Fire’s growth, all roads and highways leading into Ruidoso, including Highway 70 and state Highway 48,were shut down. That left only one route for all residents to evacuate on — was Sudderth Drive to Highway 70 east and out towards Roswell.  

Ruidoso, like many communities in New Mexico, utilizes the ‘Ready, Set, Go’ method for determining whether people need to evacuate due to a wildfire. It involves preparation before a fire starts, creating an evacuation plan, and what to do when an evacuation is ordered. You can find out more about Ready, Set, Go here. 

Images and video obtained by NMSU’s student-run news station, News22, showed residents stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic as they tried to evacuate. Thick smoke blanketed the horizon.  

Throughout the night, the South Fork Fire tripled in size. A Tuesday morning fire report stated the fire grew to 14,000 acres and stated that 500 structures were lost to the fire. Later fire reports stated 1,400 homes and businesses were destroyed. More images from within the fire zone obtained by NMSU News22 showed homes and acres of land in flames.  

Weather conditions changed, and rain chances returned to the area on Wednesday, June 19. However, threats of flash flooding remained. Reports of flooding along the Rio Ruidoso cited that water levels rose 6 feet in less than 30 minutes on one day after heavy rains.  

The Ruidoso News reported on June 20 that Ruidoso Mayor Lynn Crawford said it would be at least a week or more until residents could return to their homes. However, on June 22, Crawford said full-time residents could return on Monday, June 24 at 8 a.m. Crawford also cited risks, food and water shortages and a lack of working infrastructure.  

“In light of things, working with the national guard, the forestry, the fire danger seems to be out of the way,” he said. “Catastrophic floods haven’t happened yet, it’s just a matter of when and that is going to be an issue, but that it is going to be on you to protect yourselves, to be aware of what’s going on. When you get back to town, most of you won’t have electricity, water or gas.”  

The Village of Ruidoso asked second homeowners and visitors to stay clear of the area so that locals can survey the damage and begin the cleanup process.  

New Mexico State University has opened areas where people can help those affected by the wildfires. People can donate water, non-perishable food items, clothing, pet food and undergarments to the College of Agriculture, Consumer and Enviornmental Sciences, or to the Otero Country extension office. People can also donate to the Aggie Emergency Fund.  

As of now, there is no official word on what ignited both wildfires. However, the Federal Bureau of Investigation office in Albuquerque said in a press release on June 22 that they are asking for the public’s help in figuring out what started the fires. They are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.  

While the village has opened back up to full-time residents, there are still areas that are inaccessible due to ongoing search and rescue efforts. The Village said that two people have died due to the fires, and an additional 11 are still unaccounted for.  

Right now, the South Fork Fire is 64% contained and the Salt Fire is 55% contained. More information about the fires’ status is available here.  

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About the Contributor
Noah Apodaca
Noah Apodaca, News Editor

Noah Apodaca is a junior at New Mexico State University, where he is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Media Studies with an emphasis in broadcast, as well as a minor in government. This is Noah's first year with The Round Up. 

Born and raised in Las Cruces, New Mexico, Noah got his start in the media industry in 2022, when he joined KRWG-TV's News22 program as a writer, reporter and anchor. With News22, he has covered a wide range of topics, including traveling to the 2023 Conference USA Championship game in Lynchburg, Virginia. 

In addition to News22, Noah has worked with NMSU's journalism department’s online news publication, Kokopelli, KFOX14 in El Paso, Texas, and U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich.

In his spare time, you can catch Noah at the gym, at the airport fulfilling his love of travel, or at home streaming some Disney+ alongside his five dogs. He is ecstatic to join The Round Up team this year!

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