Officials: 5,000 evacuated in New Mexico as two wildfires spread with 0% containment

Written by on June 19, 2024

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(NEW YORK) — Approximately 5,000 people have been evacuated in New Mexico on Tuesday as crews battle two wildfires that have spread across 20,000 acres, officials said.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham declared a state of emergency as the dual South Fork Fire and Salt Fire have spread with 0% containment as of Tuesday afternoon.

Evacuation orders are in effect for three counties in the state: Mescalero, Otero and Lincoln, Grisham said during a Tuesday press conference.

Of the 5,000 people evacuated, 500 individuals are staying in 10 shelters and service centers, Grisham said.

While the exact number of homes and buildings damaged amid the blaze remains unknown as crews continue to battle the fires, Grisham estimated there have been 500 structures lost so far.

There are 17 federal and state agencies and 800 personnel on the ground working to help people amid evacuations, according to Grisham.

The governor said there are 13 wildfire hotshot crews battling the fires in addition to other fire teams.

The South Fork Fire was discovered at around 9 a.m. Monday morning on the Mescalero Reservation, west of the Village of Ruidoso, the New Mexico Forestry Division said, noting the cause of the fire remains unknown.

“Fire growth has been rapid with extreme fire behavior,” the division said.

Nearby, the Salt Fire, also in the Mescalero Reservation, is slower moving but “creeping through difficult, mountainous terrain south of Ruidoso,” fire officials said.

The Mescalero Reservation is approximately 130 miles southeast of Albuquerque

New Mexico has submitted a federal emergency disaster request, which Grisham noted should be approved within the next 24 hours.

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