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People struggle to find loved ones in the fire zones

Cellular on wheels (COW) outside the New Mexico State Fair
Cellular on wheels (COW) outside the New Mexico State Fair

One of the many challenges in the areas of the South Fork and Salt fires is the lack of communication infrastructure. In her request for federal disaster relief, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham wrote that four public communications towers have been damaged or destroyed.

KUNM has been collecting messages from people seeking information about family members.

Cheri Meis lives in California and left a message about her niece, Brandee Scott.

"She lives in Ruidoso on 100 Terrace Drive Unit #2. I spoke with her on Tuesday evening, and have not been able to get a hold of her since. Brandee, if you see this message, please call Aunt Cheri."

 Daniel Wertman lives in Indianapolis and was trying to reach his sister, Elizabeth Corey.

"She lives in Ruidoso, and I believe she's evacuated, but we've been unable to reach her because none of the phones are working, and I'm very concerned. So, Libby, if if you get this message, please give me a call."

Alie Rye, state director with the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said her department has a number of cellular operations on wheels (COWS) out in the field. But those are only to support first responders.

"We are currently reaching out to AT&T and Verizon to see about getting larger COWS and towers to support comms for the entire area," she said. "They're commercial assets. They take a little bit of time to roll in. But they are we are having those communications because we realize that we need to get comms to the entire county, not just that centralized location for our first responders."

Rye also anticipates the federal disaster declaration that came down Thursday will bring in more resources, with the Federal Emergency Management Agency already on the ground.

People trying to locate friends and families can try these numbers.

  • 1-800-Red Cross (1-800-733-2767)
  • 202-794-5044
  • 833-633-4736
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