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Village of Ruidoso Mayor Lynn Crawford updates current fire situation

The entire Village of Ruidoso was ordered to evacuate Monday evening due to the South Fork fire burning near the village.
Frances Cassler
KRWG Public Media
The entire Village of Ruidoso was ordered to evacuate Monday evening due to the South Fork fire burning near the village.

In southern New Mexico, roads are still closed and a mandatory evacuation order is still underway for the Village of Ruidoso and nearby communities as crews work to suppress the South Fork Fire and Salt Fire. KRWG Public Media’s Scott Brocato reached out to Ruidoso Mayor Lynn Crawford to get an update on the fires, his current safety, and the challenges of dealing with these fires on the heels of the Blue 2 Fire.

KWRW: Mayor Crawford, first of all, are you safe?

MAYOR LYNN CRAWFORD: Yes, sir, we evacuated kind of late last night. We're in Roswell right now. We have a lot of evacuees. Roswell's doing a great job putting people up. ENMU-Roswell's got some of our folks over at the fairgrounds, they're taking livestock, so we're checking on those folks and we'll be headed back to Ruidoso pretty quick.

We've lost it looks like over 500 structures. We have one confirmed fatality. Doing a lot of coordination. You know, we still are in suppression mode, but we're already starting recovery efforts for our citizens that lost their homes. So, it's, you know, it's a a dark day right now, it really is. And so we're really hoping that we get the air assets that we were told we were going to be getting and that those hit real hard because the winds are starting to pick up and are predicted to pick up again later in the afternoon when it gets even hotter.

KRWG: Well, what was your experience like when you were first made aware of the fires?

CRAWFORD: Well, when we saw it originally, it was just a light smoke and they said it was the effect of lightning strike the day before. And so they were monitoring it and then just out of the all of a sudden it just went up and it wasn't that windy of the day that morning it was calm, but it just blew up and that was on the reservation side. And so, you know, the next thing you know the sky’s full of smoke and then the next thing we hear is that we have another fire, the Salt Fire and so that one was endangering the other side of the city, and so, the first fire, you know, we were still trying to put out the Blue 2 Fire, and so there was just all of a sudden, the skies are pink, you know, with the smoke and the haze and just a matter of couple of hours.

We'd already set out the ready commands and then whenever we started having smoke coming out of Flume Canyon, that Flume Canyon that comes right down out of Upper Canyon for those folks that know or familiar with the village, you know, it's time to go, so, we sent out the evacuation a little earlier than I thought we would, but it turned out that there were so many people in town still from the weekend that it took a good while. And in fact, it took us about six hours to get to Roswell, and because the way these fires were situated, it was tough to evacuate to Carrizozo or to Capitan because the fire had jumped 48 and Hwy. 37. And so, you know, some of the side effects that we're having now that we've got to actively think about, our water resource specialists are looking at that because it's affecting our watershed, our storage Lakes Alto and Grindstone, which were primo, you know, beautiful little lakes are now contaminated with ash. And so we have, you know, a little over 19 million gallons of freshwater, water that's stored, and so we have that, we've got all of our crews in town that are trying to put out spot fires and of course. And we've had so many structures burned down that we just had water shooting in the air, so we're going by and trying to get every meter shut off and so it's an active situation and so we haven't allowed anybody to come back into the village, everyone's still evacuated.

We've got the National Guard that should be showing up anytime to just make sure that the residents homes are secure. And, you know, it's just everybody's really pulling together, but unfortunately, we have been through this before and we're dealing with a group that was over at the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire and they learned some lessons on recovery. And so we're already getting with the [New Mexico] Superintendent of Insurance, you know, to make sure that we can start answering people's questions. FEMA will show up and that'll be a whole another story, and then the NRCS [National Resources Conservation Service] and everyone else, and so, we've dealt with this before, but not to this magnitude.

KRWG: I'm glad you're safe, Mayor Lynn Crawford Ruidoso. Mayor Crawford, thank you for taking the time to talk with us with KRWG Public Media.

CRAWFORD: You bet. And thank you for everybody. We're getting so much support out of Las Cruces, El Paso. Alamogordo, Tularosa. I mean, our neighbors are awesome. People are sending in supplies and coordinating different things. But we're very fortunate that we have such good, you know, New Mexico folks and even folks from Texas are calling us in and trying to make donations. And we have a donation site setup that is for, you know, 100% of the proceeds go to actual end users. So that's the Lincoln County Community Foundation, but I appreciate you and you know we just need folk’s prayers because that's what's going to help us.

Find resources and leave messages for people impacted by the fire here.

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