A burned home located on Wolf Springs Loop near Ruidoso shows the devastation caused by a wildfire, Monday. (AP Photo)
Nearly 35,000 acres have been consumed by a fire sparked by lightning, which was first detected in the Lincoln National Forest on June 4. As of Monday morning, the fire was still zero percent contained. It is located in the Smokey Bear Ranger District, Lincoln National Forest, including White Mountain Wilderness.
The Little Bear fire has now damaged or destroyed at least 35 structures in the Ruidoso area. The Incident Management team, in conjunction with the State Emergency Operations Center and the Lincoln County Emergency Manager, has assembled a damage assessment team. This team began work, Monday, to assess the damage and determine the number and condition of structures within the burned area.
Four hundred twenty- nine personnel have been sent to the scene. Fire officials were hoping for a break in the weather Monday. Over the weekend crews combated winds at 20 miles an hour or greater.
“The temperature and higher humidity are helping. However the cold front that’s coming in is blowing the wind from north to south and that makes us concerned in regards to the fire turning back toward the Village of Ruidoso,” said Sean Parker, deputy manager of the Village of Ruidoso.
The fire crossed State Highway 48 on Saturday morning and has caused road closures of NM 532, Ski Run Road, at mile marker 3, east and west; NM 48 from mile marker 8 to mile marker 13, north and south; NM 37 from mile marker 0 to mile marker 8, north and south; and NM 220 from mile marker 1 to mile marker 13, north and south.
Area closures include the entire White Mountain Wilderness, and the portion of the Smokey Bear Ranger District south of State Highway 380 to the Mescalero Apache Reservation boundary, including a large area northeast of Ruidoso.
According to nmfireinfo.org, firefighters planned to hold and improve line around the ski area, and build line north along the western front. Crews will continue to improve direct line on the north, while building indirect line into Nogal Canyon. On the eastern edge, containment line is in place, but crews will be mopping up and protecting structures. On the southeastern flank, dozer line will be improved, and along NM 532, line preparation and burnout is planned. Dozer line construction continues around Eagle Lake toward Sierra Blanca Peak.
Seven residential areas have been put on alert for preliminary evacuation preparedness, Parker said. These areas include Upper Canyon, Grindstone, Brady Canyon, Alpine Village, Ponderosa Heights and Cedar Creek. Evacuees are being sheltered at Ruidoso High School, 125 Warrior Road, and Trinity Baptist Church in Capitan. Pets and livestock may be taken to J Bar J Country Church in Ruidoso, or the fairgrounds in Capitan.
The American Red Cross in New Mexico has delivered cots, blankets, pillows and comfort kits to the shelters in Ruidoso and Capitan. Additional supplies remain available if needed. A nurse is on staff at both shelters.
FEMA Region VI app- roved a Fire Management Assistance Grant, Saturday, to help cover costs of the fire. Some eligible costs include: costs for equipment and supplies; costs for emergency work (evacuations and sheltering, police barricading and traffic control, arson investigation); and cost of personal comfort and safety items for firefighter health and safety.
Due to smoke in and around Ruidoso, people in the area who have any health or breathing issues are advised to take precautions. An Air Quality Alert was issued at 9:05 p.m. Sunday, by the National Weather Service and New Mexico Department of Health for Angus, Fort Stanton, Glencoe, Lincoln, San Patricio, Hondo, Tinnie, Picacho, and Sunset. This alert remained in effect Monday.
Area resident Mark Bell and his son Brandon are organizing efforts to send supplies to the Ruidoso Boys & Girls Club and the Ruidoso Fire Department. The Bell’s home in Virginia burnt down a few years ago so Brandon, in lieu of “paying it forward,” decided he needed to help. The father-son pair have contacted Home Depot which is providing an 18-wheeler to transport items from lists such as trail mix, gatorade, paper towels and toilet paper. Home Depot has paired with Sam’s Club to provide additional items that are needed.
Roswell Cable One General Manager David Gonzalez stated in an email that KOAT 7 (ABC) and KASA 4 (FOX) have lost their signal to the area due to the fire. It is unclear when the signal will be restored.
USDA Rural Development State Director Terry Brunner announced Monday that his agency can provide financial support to those families and communities that have seen damage by the Little Bear fire. Programs administered by USDA Rural Development include the direct home loan program that provides moderate to low income residents with a direct loan from the USDA to build, refurbish or buy a home, the 504 home loan and grant program which is available to low-income rural residents who own and occupy a home in need of repairs and grants of up to $7,500 are available to low income homeowners who are 62 years old or older. If anyone would like more information on these programs they should call USDA Rural Development’s Roswell office at: 622-8745 extension 4 during business hours.