A burned SUV at a home located on Wolf Springs Loop near Ruidoso shows the devastation caused by a wildfire, Monday. AP Photo
Containment of the Little Bear fire climbed to 40 percent after firefighters continued to make headway on eastern and southern portions of the fire, which has consumed 37,912 acres, 224 residential structures and 10 outbuildings.
Total personnel surpassed 1,300 by Thursday morning, with 34 incident management crews. Resources committed included 74 fire engines, 10 helicopters and six bulldozers.
Dan Ware, spokesman for New Mexico Forestry Division, credited the increased containment to favorable weather conditions this week and hard work on the ground. He said work on the southern end of the fire is crucial to keeping the fire out of areas that would lead it into the upper canyon area outside of Ruidoso.
“The risk to communities south of the fire like Ruidoso is greatly reduced,” he said. “That’s not to say that (crews) are just going to go away now that those containment lines have been done. There are still crews in that area, and there is still a precautionary alert for folks who live in that area. They need to be vigilant. They need to be ready to go should the fire break through those containment lines.”
Crews executed successful burn out operations along Ski Run Road on Wednesday, and spent Thursday cleaning up the area. On the east, crews mopped up hot spots and provided structure protection, while suppression efforts on the north end of the fire increased Thursday, Ware said.
“The northwest flank is still very active. And that’s where crews are focusing a lot of their attention right now, with a lot of our arial operations going up there. We have some lines dug in, we have hand crews up there, and the goal is to just strengthen those lines.”
The Lincoln County Sheriff’s office began the property owner notification process Wednesday, meeting individually with many of the people who lost their homes.
“The plan is to have the identification process completed by (Thursday evening), and the notification is ongoing,” said Dan Bastion, public information officer. “As soon as they are able to identify who owned the property that was damaged and find contact information, the Sheriff’s office will be contacting those people.”
An all-hazards incident management team from Texas will be joining crews to help property owners once re-entry is possible.
Ware said that considering the personal devastation that comes with property loss, he has been struck by the patience he has seen throughout the entire ordeal. “I can’t personally imagine what it would be like to go through this. I know a lot of people who have, and you can’t help but be devastated right alongside them. It’s going to be traumatic, and I can’t give them enough credit because people in these areas where the fire burned over know there’s a pretty good chance they might not have their homes anymore. But I cannot say enough about how wonderful they are being as far as understanding that this process takes time.
“It took a while for our assessors to get in there, and it takes a while to match up addresses because in some areas, there’s barely anything left. So the process takes time, and people have been incredibly understanding.”
Public meetings will be held each day at 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Ruidoso High School gym, and at 7 p.m. at the Lincoln County Fairgrounds.
Nonperishable foods, toiletries, clothing, towels and blankets can be taken to Valley Bank of Commerce, 217 W. Second St., from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call Jennifer Sanchez at 626-4741.
Road closures include NM 532 at mile marker 3, east and west; NM 48 from Ruidoso to mile marker 15, north and south; and NM 37 from mile marker 0 to mile marker 8, north and south. NM 48 has been reopened to through traffic. Area closures include the entire White Mountain Wilderness, and the Smokey Bear Ranger District south of NM 380 to the Mescalero Apache Reservation boundary, including a large area east and north of Ruidoso to the south boundary of the Fort Stanton Recreation Area.
Evacuations include all campgrounds west of Bonito Lake; subdivisions of Villa Madonna, Enchanted Forest, Nogal Canyon (Forest Road 400, campground and summer homes), Angus, Sierra Vista, Sonterra 1 and 2, Copper Canyon and Loma Grande; Eagle Lakes Campground, Eagle Creek summer homes, Sun Valley and La Junta. Sonterra 3, Cap Rock Court, and Pine Hill Loop have reopened for residents.
Shelters include Ruidoso High School and Trinity Baptist Church in Capitan. Evacuees can register at the shelters or online at safeandwell.communityos.org. Pets and livestock can be taken to the fairgrounds in Capitan, Pet Paradise in La Luz, Otero County Fairgrounds in Alamogordo, and Lincoln County Fairgrounds in Carrizozo. In Ruidoso, pets and livestock can be taken to Lincoln County Animal Shelter, DVM Faris and Dunagan Farms.
For information about shelters and emergency assistance, contact the American Red Cross in New Mexico at 800-560-2302. Donations can be made at redcross.org or RedCrossNewMexico.org.