The Little Bear fire burns in steep, rocky, inaccessible terrain in the White Mountain Wilderness of the Lincoln National Forest near Ruidoso and Al[auth] to, June 6. As of Saturday, the fire had consumed more than 38,000 acres, more than 234 structures and was 51% contained. Mark Wilson Photo
Firefighters continued to attack active areas of the Little Bear fire, which held at 51 percent containment Saturday and is 38,144 acres in size. Lincoln County emergency managers have estimated that damages caused by the fire, which has destroyed 234 structures, stands at more than $22 million.
Crews improved containment lines on the west side of the fire, where the fire is most active. Patrol and mop up continued around the remainder of the fire.
“The focus continues to be where there is active burning,” said Victoria Fox, incident information officer. “It’s a 24/7 operation, and so each day steady progress is being made in those areas toward containment.”
Lincoln County received rain Saturday for the first time since the beginning of the Little Bear fire. Residents within 100 yards of creeks and streams in low lying areas were asked to evacuate their homes Saturday afternoon due to heavy rain over areas affected by the Little Bear, White and Donaldson fires. The evacuation was lifted about two hours later after the potential for flooding diminished.
Anne Jeffery, incident information officer, said crews estimated that the majority of the fire received one-tenth to a quarter of an inch of rain, and that the southern perimeter of the fire received half an inch of rain.
Congressman Steve Pearce, R-N.M., has publicly questioned whether bureaucracy prevented firefighters from adequately responding to the fire in the days leading up to its containment break late last Friday.
Dan Ware, New Mexico Forestry Division spokes-man, said crews dealt with a lot of rumors last week about the initial response to the fire. “From the moment this fire was called in, men and women have been putting their lives on the line. Yes, 224 homes were lost, but how many more were saved? Hundreds, thousands of homes were saved by the fire crews keeping the fire from moving into places like Alto and Ruidoso and Capitan.
“… If folks have questions about the facts relating to the fire, they need to call the fire information officers and talk to them directly.
The men and women who are firefighters but who are also information officers, and know the situation and understand it.”
Michele Caskey, Lincoln County public information officer, commented, “The first days of the fire there was a lot of intense public feeling that the Forest Service did not attempt to suppress this fire when it first started. … I feel quite satisfied, and in the public meetings I’ve been at, many of our citizens are quite satisfied that they did make every attempt to put that fire out, and then just a really unusual set of environmental, weather-related circumstances drove this fire into a frenzy.
“There’s been a lot of very proactive response to the fire. This is the fire that a lot of people have been expecting for a long time, because there hasn’t been a fire in this part of the forest, which is a very dense part of the forest with lots of burnable fuels. People have been worried about this for a while.
“I think that they should feel very satisfied with the fire response. Many, many homes have been saved due to the action of our crews.”
Road closures: NM 532 from NM 48 junction to Forest Road 127A is open to residents only. 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; Angus and Bonita Park.
Shelters include Ruidoso High School and Trinity Baptist Church in Capitan. Pets and livestock can be taken to the Lincoln County Fairgrounds in Capitan, Pet Paradise in La Luz, Otero County Fairgrounds in Alamogordo, Carrizozo Animal Shelter and Thundering Paws in Alto. In Ruidoso, pets and livestock can be taken to the Humane Society, Ruidoso Animal Clinic and Dunagan Farms.
Nonperishable foods, toiletries, cleaning supplies, small appliances, towels and blankets can be taken to Valley Bank of Commerce, 217 W. Second St., Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call Jennifer Sanchez at 626-4741.
For information about shelters and emergency assistance, contact the American Red Cross in New Mexico at 800-560-2302. Donations can be made at RedCrossNewMexico.org or wffoundation.org.