The Little Bear fire, burning in steep, rocky, inaccessible terrain in the White Mountain Wilderness of the Lincoln National Forest near Ruidoso and Alto, caused the closure of State Highway 48 near Alto. The fire has consumed more than 10,000 acres, and damaged or destroyed more than 20 structures. Mark Wilson Photo
The Little Bear fire has damaged or destroyed at least 20 structures north of Ruidoso after breaking through containment lines Friday due to high winds. As of Saturday morning, the fire was estimated to be about 10,000 acres and was zero percent contained. The fire, caused by lightning, was first detected in the Lincoln National Forest on June 4.
According to a New Mexico State Forestry press release, fire suppression efforts have been difficult due to the “steep, rocky, inaccessible terrain in the White Mountain Wilderness of the Lincoln National Forest.”
A Type 1 incident management team, used for large-scale disasters, will take over fire suppression operations from The Pecos Zone Type 3 incident management team at 6 a.m. today.
The fire crossed State Highway 48 on Saturday morning, and has caused road closures of State Highway 532, Ski Run Road at mile marker 3, State Highway 48 to Capitan and Highway 37 to Highway 380. Evacuations have so far included all campgrounds west of Bonito Lake, Villa Madonna Subdivision, Enchanted Forest, Nogal Canyon (Forest Road 400), Eagle Lakes Campground, Eagle Creek Summer Homes and Ski Apache.
Fire personnel are using direct and indirect tactics to keep the fire from moving farther north, northeast and southwest.
Public Information Officer Joel Arnwine with the Type 3 incident management team said southeast progression of the fire was pretty well contained as of Saturday evening, but that northwest progression “continues to be pretty hard on us.” He said conditions have made fire suppression efforts difficult.
“They had red flag warnings (Saturday), which means winds at 20 miles an hour or greater, humidity 20 percent or less and temperature at 70 degrees or higher,” he said. “… So it’s extremely unfavorable for fire suppression.”
A Fire Management Assistance Grant was approved by FEMA Region VI on Saturday to help cover costs of the fire.
“The fire is moving very rapidly,” Gov. Susana Martinez said. “It is crucial that people around the fire listen to evacuation orders and take every step necessary to protect themselves and their families.”
Nick Piatek of New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency management commented, “The fire teams continue to work. Obviously it’s high winds and difficult conditions. We, at the state level, have been working with individuals that set up the shelters locally, the emergency manager locally, and then the Red Cross, to support that. If there are any future evacuations, (we’re) making sure there are sheltering capacities in place to handle any other additional bad conditions.
“The big thing for us right now is just to make sure that people in the area are paying attention to radio and television (alerts). If there’s an evacuation order for your area, make sure you’re getting out.”
Evacuees are being sheltered at First Baptist Church on Country Club, Community Methodist Church, Senior Center in Ruidoso Downs, Church of Christ on Sudderth Drive and Trinity Baptist Church in Capitan.
Due to smoke in and around Ruidoso, people in the area who have any health or breathing issues are advised to take precautions.
For more information or to learn how you can help, contact American Red Cross Communications Coordinator Beverly L. Allen at 505-220-3097.