List of missing residents shrinks as New Mexico village seeks recovery from wildfires | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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List of missing residents shrinks as New Mexico village seeks recovery from wildfires

Robert Greenamyer, a full-time resident of Ruidoso, N.M., waits in his car for re-entry into the fire-ravaged village, Monday, June 24, 2024. (Chancey Bush/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)
Original Publication Date June 24, 2024 - 10:11 PM

The number of residents still unaccounted for has been shrinking significantly after thousands of people fled their homes as two fast-moving wildfires approached their village in southern New Mexico, Ruidoso Mayor Lynn Crawford said Tuesday.

Search and rescue crews have cleared more properties in the areas of Ruidoso, the mountain community hardest hit by the flames, and village officials and volunteers from the American Red Cross have been working through social media to list all those found to be “safe.”

Just a few people remained on the list Tuesday as unaccounted for. They include those authorities have yet to make contact with and who have not been heard from by family and friends.

Crawford said during his regular radio address that he hoped to get the list down to zero.

“We feel good that we're getting that number down ... but we have to be sure,” he said.

About 1,000 firefighters were assigned to the fires in Ruidoso, as other crews were busy responding to reports of new fires around the region. In all, more than 100 new fires — most of them small — were reported in New Mexico and Arizona over the last seven days, according to the multiagency Southwest Coordination Center based in Albuquerque.

Federal officials have been working to streamline their response to major wildfires, starting with the deployment of complex incident management teams when there are significant threats to homes and infrastructure. That was the case with the fires in Ruidoso, which has a permanent population of about 8,000 and can triple during the summer months when tourists flood in.

Nationwide, more than a dozen large uncontained fires are currently burning, according to the National Interagecy Fire Center. Aside from the South Fork and Salt fires in Ruidoso, complex incident management teams are assigned to blazes in Washington and Colorado.

With more streets in Ruidoso being cleared by the special teams and their search dogs, village officials were able to open up more areas of the village on Tuesday. Some areas that have yet to be searched and spots where post-fire flooding remain a concern remained off limits.

Firefighters were helped over recent days by rainfall, cooler temperatures and high humidity levels. They have been focused on pockets of unburned fuel to ensure no flare-ups with drier weather expected over the next two days.

The fires were first reported June 17. Within hours, flames moved through tinder-dry parts of the Sacramento Mountains from Mescalero Apache tribal land toward Ruidoso. Evacuation orders included thousands of homes, businesses and the Ruidoso Downs horse track, prompting traffic jams as people dropped everything and fled.

About 40 square miles were charred before crews were able to corral the flames. At least two deaths have been confirmed, and an estimated 1,500 structures have been destroyed or damaged.

The FBI is investigating, offering up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrests and convictions of those responsible for the human-caused fires.

News from © The Associated Press, 2024
The Associated Press

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