Remaining evacuation orders lifted in New Mexico wildfire

RUIDOSO, N.M. (AP) — A wind-driven wildfire in southern New Mexico that destroyed more than 200 homes now is 56% contained and all remaining evacuation orders have been lifted, authorities said Sunday.

“It’s great to get folks back in their homes, especially it being Easter weekend,” Southwest Incident Commander Dave Bales said at a community meeting for Village of Ruidoso residents Saturday night.

The wildfire that started Tuesday and killed two people remains under investigation.

New Mexico State Police said they still were awaiting confirmation on the identities of the couple who died.

The two bodies were found after worried family members contacted police, saying the elderly couple had planned to evacuate Tuesday when the fire exploded but were unaccounted for later that day.

Evacuation orders began to be lifted late Friday and covered about 60% of the estimated 4,500 people ordered to leave their homes.

Two areas that remained under mandatory evacuations — Gavilan Canyon and Lower Eagle Creek — had the orders lifted Sunday morning.

As of Saturday, the fire had burned 9.6 square miles (25 square kilometers) of timber and brush.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.