Local authorities to take over response to Ruidoso fires

Update on Ruidoso fires: July 5, 2024

Command of response to the South Fork Fire and Salt Fire will soon transition to local agencies in a positive sign for the progress that crews have made.

RUIDOSO, N.M. — Local authorities will take over the response to the South Fork Fire and the Salt Fire in the Ruidoso area this weekend.

Southwest Area Incident Management Team officials say there are enough local resources in place to get the fires to 100% containment.

Currently, both fires are at 87% containment with the following acreage:

  • South Fork Fire: 17,569 acres (was 17,556 acres Tuesday 6/25; was 16,349 Thursday night 6/20; Tuesday night 6/18; 5,252 acres Monday night 6/17)
  • Salt Fire: 7,939 acres (was 7,947 acres Tuesday 6/25; was 7,652 Thursday night 6/20; was 7,071 acres Tuesday night 6/18; 3,102 acres Monday night 6/17)

Containment of the South Fork Fire was at 73% Friday, June 28. It was 69% Thursday, 64% Wednesday and 54% Tuesday. The Salt Fire was at 71% Friday, June 28, which was up from 66% Thursday, 55% Wednesday and 38% Tuesday.

On Tuesday, June 25, 1,006 personnel were assigned to the South Fork Fire and the Salt Fire. As of July 3, there are 532 personnel.

There are still hotspots on both fires. Crews don’t believe they will affect containment, however.

Crews reported rain and high humidity minimalized the growth of the South Fork and Salt Fires in the Ruidoso area.

Lightning caused the South Fork Fire. The FBI is now assisting state, federal and tribal investigators working to figure out how the Salt Fire started. The FBI is asking anyone with information that can help with their investigation to call 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324). They are offering a reward.


Officials estimate the fires have impacted around 1,400 structures. The fires have claimed the lives of two people, New Mexico State Police confirmed last Wednesday.

NMSP said they found one person dead inside a burned vehicle on Rainier Road in Ruidoso. They haven’t identified the person due to the condition police found them.

NMSP also says they found one man dead with numerous burns near the Swiss Chalet Motel in Ruidoso. They identified him as 60-year-old Patrick Pearson.

The New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management is offering debris removal services to fire and flood victims. Impacted residents are eligible. You can sign up in person at:

  • Roswell Civic and Convention Center
  • Horton Complex in Ruidoso
  • Mescalero Apache School

You can also call 1-833-663-4736.

The Village of Ruidoso is advising the areas of Upper Canyon, Flume Canyon and Black Forest are still on a do not drink order for water. That order comes from the New Mexico Environment Department. Water to Cherokee Mobile Home Village is turned off while officials assess the damage.

FEMA has also activated Transitional Sheltering Assistance for eligible households in Lincoln and Otero counties, as well as the Mescalero Apache Reservation. Any residents who applied for assistance are eligible to temporarily stay in a hotel or motel, paid for by FEMA. Below is the criteria:


Ruidoso and Ruidoso Downs are reopened. If and when you do return, officials advise you to bring at least a week’s worth of food and water. Evacuation centers, like ENMU-Roswell, are letting evacuees choose from many food choices and water.

“The City of Roswell, all of its residents, have been so grateful as they have donated so much. So, we don’t need it. So anything that they need. It’s all available to them,” said Martha Stabb, of ENMU.

If you are having trouble finding a loved one due to the prior evacuations, the Village of Ruidoso is pointing people to these resources:

Evacuation sites on the Mescalero Apache Reservation will close Sunday, June 30. All donations and tribal distribution of donated items to affected people will be at the Inn of the Mountain Gods convention center from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily.

Some parts of Ruidoso were blocked off because officials said they were unsafe or under investigation. Crews were searching for about 30 people but they’ve all been accounted for.

Lincoln County Manager Randall Camp said traffic control points were removed. However, he advised people to be careful when going back to their homes.

“It’s not like it used to be and it is very dangerous. There are a lot of nails or a lot of rusty metal, you really don’t know what’s in there. Do not start the debris removal until we have the FEMA team in place because they will assist you with the debris removal,” Camp said during a community meeting Wednesday.

The local post offices in and around Ruidoso have reopened so you can send and receive your mail. Just show your photo ID.

If you’re returning home, city officials ask you to please refer to this reentry map. They plan to lift the exclusion zones, except for Cedar Creek. Camp said that the area is at high risk for flooding.

The village is also advising you to look out for contractors saying they’re a “FEMA-approved contractor.” Village officials say there is no such thing as a “FEMA-approved contractor.”

FEMA has also teamed up with the State of New Mexico to open a Disaster Recovery Center at the Roswell Civic and Convention Center. They’re offering one-on-one help to affected residents. State and federal personnel and other resources will be on hand to help people. It is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Community Response

If you’re wondering about ways to help people impacted by the fire, we have a running list here:

The Village of Ruidoso also has a running list of dropoff and distribution sites here.

Fire response

The Bureau of Indian Affairs, Mescalero, U.S. Forest Service, Lincoln County, Otero County, Village of Ruidoso, Ruidoso Downs and the state Forestry Division all responded with air tankers and ground resources, like dozers, heavy equipment and engines.


The Salt Fire began Monday, June 17, on the Mescalero Apache Reservation in Otero County, southwest of Ruidoso. The Salt Fire was an estimated 1,751 acres as of 7:24 p.m., and 35 acres as of 5:15 p.m.

The South Fork Fire was first reported at 9 a.m. Monday, June 17, on the Mescalero Apache Reservation, west of Ruidoso. Officials estimated it at 20 acres around 1 p.m. Monday but it exploded in growth. By 7 p.m., the fire grew to an estimated 2,250 acres and then to 4,156 acres a half hour later.

The explosive growth prompted mandatory evacuations for the entire Village of Ruidoso at around 6:48 p.m. Officials warned the fire was headed directly toward the village.

“We were getting ready to sit down to a meal and the alert came on: Evacuate now, don’t take anything or plan to pack anything, just evacuate,” resident Mary Lou Minic said. “And within three to five minutes, we were in the car, leaving.”

The Ruidoso Convention Center was the evacuation center for the fire. However, they had to move it to Capitan High School because of the mandatory evacuations. Officials also directed people to a loved one’s home outside of the affected area or to Roswell.

As a reminder too, if you see any hot ash spots or active fire, call 911.

The Tularosa Basin Regional Dispatch Authority is handling 911 calls for the Village of Ruidoso, Ruidoso Downs and the Mescalero Apache Reservation. Call them if you need assistance.

The Southwest Area Team 5 took over the fire Wednesday, June 19, at 6 a.m.