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5,000 Under Evacuation Orders As New Mexico Wildfire Rages

Authorities said they suspect the fire, which has torched nearly 10 square miles of land and killed two people, was sparked by a downed power line.
Fires burn in New Mexico
Posted at 11:27 AM, Apr 16, 2022

Evacuation orders for close to 5,000 people are still in place as firefighters battle a deadly blaze in New Mexico.

The fire has destroyed more than 200 homes and killed two people since it broke out Tuesday near the village Ruidoso, a vacation spot that draws thousands of tourists and horse racing fans every summer.

Justin Garcia / The Las Cruces Sun News via AP

It was a decade ago that fire ripped through part of the village of Ruidoso, putting the vacation spot on the map with the most destructive wildfire in New Mexico’s recorded history when more than 240 homes burned and nearly 70 square miles of forest were blackened by a lightning-sparked blaze.

On Friday, Mayor Lynn Crawford was rallying heartbroken residents once again as firefighters tried to keep wind-whipped flames from making another run at the village. She said the response from their neighbors has been amazing.

“So we have plenty of food, we have plenty of clothes, those kinds of things but we still appreciate and need your prayers and your thoughts,” the mayor said during a briefing. “Again, our hearts go out to the family of the deceased, to those that have lost their homes.”

Authorities have yet to release the names of a couple who died. Their bodies were found after worried family members contacted police, saying the couple had planned to evacuate Tuesday when the fire exploded but were unaccounted for later that day.

New Mexico authorities said they suspect the fire, which has torched more than 9.5 square miles of forest and grass, was sparked by a downed power line and the investigation continued Friday.

Hotter and drier weather coupled with decades of fire suppression have contributed to an increase in the number of acres burned by wildfires, fire scientists say. The problem is exacerbated by a more than 20-year Western megadrought that studies link to human-caused climate change.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.