New Mexico Needs Help With Fires From Rainfall

Crews could be put in danger by shifting winds
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 19, 2024 5:30 PM CDT
New Mexico Needs Change in Weather to Beat Fires
A couple from Ruidoso, New Mexico, camps at the Eastern New Mexico State Fairgrounds in Roswell on Wednesday.   (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

Air tankers dropped water and red retardant on Wednesday on a pair of growing fires in mountainous New Mexico that killed at least one person, damaged more than 1,400 structures, forced thousands to flee a tourist locale, and may now threaten hundreds of firefighters amid high wind risks. Strong winds on Monday pushed the larger of two wildfires into the mountain village of Ruidoso, forcing residents to flee with little notice, the AP reports. Weather patterns were shifting Wednesday with moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, Bladen Breitreiter of the National Weather Service office in Albuquerque said.

"The potential for scattered to isolated thunderstorms could help, but it depends on where they hit," said Breitreiter. "If the rain misses the fires, downward winds could cause problems for firefighters on the ground." He said rain could also lead to dangerous flash flooding in newly burned areas. Light rain started to fall on some areas outside Ruidoso by early afternoon. The two fires remained at 0% containment as crews used heavy equipment to build fire lines while water and retardant were dropped from the air, authorities said. Ruidoso and much of the Southwest have been exceedingly dry and hot this spring. About 1,400 structures have been destroyed or damaged, but it's unclear how many were homes, per the AP.

Ardis Holder left Ruidoso with her two young daughters. She's sure the house she rented in the village she grew up in is gone, based on the maps she'd seen. "We were already seeing where all the fire hit, it's everywhere," she said late Tuesday from a shelter in nearby Roswell. "If there's something standing, that's awesome. But, if not, we were prepared for the worst." About 1,500 horses at the Ruidoso Downs were moved in a chaotic scene after authorities ordered an evacuation, said trainer John Stinebaugh. He had his clients' 42 racehorses moved to Artesia, about 100 miles to the southeast, where they were stabled at a fairgrounds. "People from all over just showed up with trailers to help move the horses," said Stinebaugh.

(More wildfires stories.)

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