Deadly Ruidoso fires progressing toward full containment; 25,508 total acres burned

RUIDOSO, N.M. — Both the South Fork Fire and the Salt Fire are at least 66% contained Thursday and neither fire has grown in the last 24 hours.

  • 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 is now at 69%. It was 64% Wednesday and 54% Tuesday. Containment of the Salt Fire is now at 66%, up from 55% Wednesday and 38% Tuesday.

On Tuesday, 1,006 personnel were assigned to the South Fork Fire and the Salt Fire. Now, there are 900 personnel.

Crews reported rain and high humidity minimalized the growth of the South Fork and Salt Fires in the Ruidoso area Thursday. While that has continued and

We learned Friday that the FBI is now assisting state, federal and tribal investigators working to figure out how the fires 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.

Flash flooding is still a risk, like last Wednesday when officials had to pull crews from the firefight. Utilities, such as electricity, water, internet and phones, are still shut down too. That will impact communications, which will make it difficult to get in touch with people.


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 says on Tuesday morning 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.


Ruidoso and Ruidoso Downs reopened Monday. 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:

Some parts of town 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.”

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 are all responding with air tankers and ground resources, like dozers, heavy equipment and engines. Additional resources are on order.

According to the City of Alamogordo, the fire department is ready to deploy resources to Ruidoso to help address any structure loss. The Alamogordo Police Department has also been mobilized for possible traffic control. The city also has the Civic Center on standby as a possible evacuation place.


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.