Ruidoso residents face uncertainty upon return

Rescue residents face uncertainty upon return

It's been a week since the South Fork and Salt wildfires began near Ruidoso. Since then, they've burned more than 23,000 acres in southern New Mexico.

RUIDOSO, N.M. – Crews with the Urban Search and Rescue team closed off areas deemed as “exclusion zones” to the public as recovery efforts are underway. This comes as the village is set to reopen for residents Monday.

Officials say areas are currently considered as crime scenes and people cannot be there.   

USAR officials confirmed two people died and say there is a potential for more fatalities.

It’s been a week since the South Fork and Salt wildfires began near Ruidoso. Since then, they’ve burned more than 23,000 acres in southern New Mexico. 

Thousands had to evacuate, but starting Monday, many in Ruidoso will be allowed back in. Village leaders are reminding people it’s going to take time to rebuild. 

The wildfires near Ruidoso seem to be slowing down. The South Fork Fire is more than 35% contained and the Salt fire is about 7% contained. This as the Southwest Management Incident Team says the recent rain helped slow down the spread. 

“The rainfall we’ve been receiving as well as a lot of hard work by the aviation and firefighters that have been working especially, can’t say this enough, the local firefighters that did the initial attack on the first two shifts of this really put a lot of this fire behavior in check,” said Dan Pearson, a fire behavior analyst for the Southwest Management Incident Team. 

After eight days, Ruidoso residents are getting ready to go back home as the village reopens Monday morning.

“It’s gonna be difficult, and we’re not sure, you know, what we’re facing,” said Melissa Poanter. 

“I’m kind of scared to go back and just wondering what’s gonna look like,” said David Solas.

Poanter and Solas have been in and out of evacuation centers and motels. When they go back, they’ll need to bring about a week’s worth of groceries and water.

“We do have some cases of water and stuff at home. So, when I talked to our apartment manager, she did say that we had, you know, as far as she knew we had electricity and stuff. So hopefully that is the case,” said Poanter. 

Re-entry is for full-time Ruidoso residents only, and ID’s will be checked.

People may assume everyone wants to go back home, but some residents say they don’t feel safe yet. Some parts of the village are without electricity, gas or water. There’s also a boil advisory.

For many, there’s just a lot of uncertainty right now. Some parts of Ruidoso still won’t be accessible Monday due to ongoing investigations.