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  • Writer's pictureSamantha Norfolk

Wildfire Rampage New Mexico

By Samantha Norfolk

Two wildfires ignited on Monday, June 17 in the Village of Ruidoso, in south-central New Mexico. The first fire, the South Fork Fire, started on the Mescalero Apache Reservation and U.S. Forest Service land and areas around Ruidoso. The second fire, the Salt Fire, also started on the Mescalero Reservation.

The residents of the Village of Ruidoso have been evacuated since the fires broke out last week. Only residents are allowed to go back to their homes on Monday, June 24 for the first time. The cause of the fires is still not known, according to El Paso Times.

Where did the fires start?

The fires started near the Mescalero Apache Reservation. The tribe owns and operates the Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort & Casino and Ski Apache Resort, which have been affected by the fires.

The South Fork and Salt fires have burned nearly 23,000 acres of land combined. As of June 23, the South Fork fire has burned 17,551 acres of land and is 31% contained, while the Salt fire has consumed 7,775 acres of land and is 7% contained, according to the Village of Ruidoso New Mexico website. The fires destroyed an estimated 1,400 structures, including nearly 500 homes. The Swiss Chalet Hotel is one of those structures devastated by the fires, located near the Ski Apache Resort.

The South Fork and Salt fires were both affected by the heavy thunderstorms in the area. Thunderstorms can be hazardous for firefighters because the rain can cause downbursts, which is a strong downward burst of wind. Thunderstorms may also cause a sudden reversal of wind direction, a rise in wind speed, and a drop in temperature. Firefighters and officials were concerned about flooding also affecting the area. Authorities said rain has helped stomp out some of the momentum of the fire, according to USA Today.

Have there been any fatalities?

As of June 24, there have been two causalities of the fires and 29 people are missing. The first confirmed victim was 60-year-old Patrick Pearson, who was found dead on the side of the road near the Swiss Chalet Hotel, said state police in a statement. Pearson had a broken leg and was recovering from surgery and was waiting for his ride to get there, according to El Paso Times. The skeletal remains of a second victim were found burned in a vehicle, but the victim has not yet been identified.

History of New Mexico’s most destructive wildfires

Since 2011, there have been five major devastating fires in New Mexico. In May 2012, the largest wildfire started when lightning struck near Mogollon Baldy and Whitehead Creek burning 297,845 acres of land. The fire was finally contained in July, nearly two months after it started. The Whitewater-Baldy fire was the largest in New Mexico history until April 2022 when a prescribed burn got out of control near Santa Fe National Forest. The Calf Canyon-Hermits Peak fire burned 341,735 acres of land.

Ways you can help

New Mexico officials have partnered with the FBI to further investigate the cause of the fires. The FBI is offering a $10,000 reward to anyone who can provide information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or group of people responsible for the fires. To submit information please call 1-800-225-5324 or go to

As of June 21, the Village of Ruidoso has expressed appreciation for the donations received during the wildfires, however, the volume of donated items is overwhelming. The village is encouraging monetary donations to the Community Foundation of Lincoln County. Contributions can be made to 


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