Biden Issues New Mexico Disaster Declaration

Uncontained wildfires have killed at least 2
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 21, 2024 12:30 AM CDT
Biden Issues New Mexico Disaster Declaration
In this image taken from webcam footage provided by the Village of Ruidoso, smoke rises behind Ruidoso , on Monday, June 17, 2024.   (Village of Ruidoso Tourism Department via AP)

President Biden issued a disaster declaration for parts of southern New Mexico on Thursday. The move freed up funding and more resources as crews worked, under the threat of flooding and lightning, to battle a pair of deadly wildfires that have destroyed hundreds of homes and forced thousands of people to flee, the AP reports. Residents of Ruidoso, a mountain village, fled the larger fire with little notice as it swept into neighborhoods on Monday. More areas were evacuated on Tuesday as the fire ballooned, consuming homes nestled among the the ponderosa pines that dominate the hillsides.

The flames advanced Thursday along the mountain headwaters of Eagle Creek and the Rio Ruidoso with 0% containment. Crews used heavy equipment to build fire lines while water and retardant dropped from the air. "The big concern right now is flooding," Ruidoso Mayor Lynn Crawford told KWMW radio on Thursday. "We got less than two-tenths of an inch of rain yesterday but because of all the burn scar, there's nothing holding it up. We had flooding already over the bridges."

An estimated 1,400 structures have been destroyed or damaged, and Crawford estimated about half were homes. Whole portions of some communities were lost, he said. "These are things that are burnt to the foundations and all the trees around it," he said. "It's devastating."

  • The rain helped to keep the fire from spreading and high humidity levels and cooler temperatures were expected to help keep the flames in check again Thursday, said Brandon Glenn, with the incident management team that is assigned to the fires.
  • Hundreds of firefighters have been trying to prevent spot fires, while others are assessing roads and trying to get around to structures and contain pockets of unburned fuel that might flare up.
  • Authorities say a badly burned 60-year-old man who died was found near the popular Swiss Chalet Inn in Ruidoso. His family said he had arranged for a ride from friends but they were unable to get to him Monday since the roads were blocked. It appeared he was overcome after he tried to set out on foot. On Wednesday, officers discovered the skeletal remains of an unidentified second person in the driver's seat of a burned vehicle.
(More New Mexico stories.)

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