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Evacuations ordered in New Mexico village after fast-moving wildfire grows rapidly

Residents of the village of Ruidoso, New Mexico, were asked to flee immediately Monday due to a wildfire that was discovered west of the town that morning and spanning more than 5,000 acres by the end of the day, officials said.

“Immediate mandatory evacuation of the village of Ruidoso – leave now!! » declared the village government on its Facebook page in all capital letters shortly before 7 p.m.

The South Fork Fire was discovered around 9 a.m. Monday on the Mescalero Reservation, west of the village of more than 7,000, and as of 11:30 p.m. it had grown to about 5,252 acres, the South Fork Fire Department said. New Mexico Forestry Division.

“Fire growth has been rapid and fire behavior is extreme,” the division said. The fire was 0% contained Monday evening.

Multiple evacuation orders were issued, with city residents urged to leave immediately and warned against attempting to pack up valuables or defend their property.

The Red Cross set up emergency shelter Tuesday morning for people fleeing their homes. Highways 48 and 70 leading into the city were closed.

No deaths appear to have been reported Monday evening. The number of structures lost was listed as unknown on government incident websites, but several structures were threatened.

Mary Lou Minic knew there was a fire in the area, but she didn’t know how serious the danger was. She was among those now safe at an evacuation center in Roswell Monday evening.

“We were getting ready to sit down for a meal and the alert went off: Evacuate now, don’t take anything and don’t plan to take anything, just evacuate,” Minic told KOB from Albuquerque, NBC affiliate. “And after three to five minutes we were in the car and leaving.”

Hot ash from the fire was falling in Alto, a community north of Ruidoso, the Ruidoso government said. Part of U.S. Highway 70 near the preserve was closed, he said.

The preserve said on its website that the Mescalero Conservancy was going door to door telling people in affected areas to leave immediately and that fire and vehicle restrictions and closures were in effect.

The Mescalero Apache Tribe said it was opening an evacuation center at the Inn of the Mountain Gods Convention Center, and said all non-essential tribal employees were encouraged to volunteer Tuesday. He also offered to house livestock at a rodeo center.

Power provider PNM knocked out power to part of Ruidoso at the request of first responders, the city said.

An evacuation center was opened in the Eastern New Mexico-Roswell University gymnasium in Roswell, about 70 miles east of Ruidoso, and the nearby town of Alamogordo announced it would send firefighters to help.

A webcam view of Midtown Ruidoso showed the sky behind the city glowing red Monday evening. Tuesday morning, the glow was no longer visible but thick smoke had enveloped the city.

Ruidoso, Alto, and the preserve are in the Sierra Blanca mountain range, about 130 miles southeast of Albuquerque.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

The fire broke out while much of the American Southwest, including parts of New Mexico, was under a “red flag” due to fire danger from the very dry air and winds.

In Calaveras County, California, east of Stockton, a wildfire that burned about 1,900 acres also forced emergency evacuations Monday.

Around 5,000 people were left without electricity due to the fire. Aerial video showed planes dropping pink fire retardant in front of the fire and a wall of thick smoke.

The so-called Aero Fire started near Aero Road and Hunt Road in Copperopolis around 3:20 p.m., according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as Cal Fire.

CORRECTION (June 17, 2024, 10:56 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the fire burning on the Mescalero Reservation. This is the South Fork Fire, not the Salt Fork Fire.

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