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“It looked like the sky was on fire”: Wildfire devastates southern New Mexico and California

June 19, 2024

New Mexico wildfire forces thousands to evacuate

Thousands of residents in southern New Mexico were forced to evacuate as a wind-driven wildfire swept through a mountainous village, destroying homes and buildings, and resulting in at least one fatality.

As reported by AP News, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham declared a state of emergency for Ruidoso and neighboring tribal lands, deploying National Guard troops to assist.

A high-level fire management team is expected to take control on Wednesday as strong winds continue to hamper firefighting efforts.

Christy Hood, a real estate agent in Ruidoso, described the chaotic evacuation: “As we were leaving, there were flames in front of me and to the side of me.

And all the animals were just running — charging — trying to get out.”

Hood and her family faced a two-hour drive out of town due to heavy traffic.

She recalled: “It looked like the sky was on fire. It was bright orange. Honestly, it looked like the apocalypse.”

Damage and response to New Mexico wildfire

The fire has destroyed or damaged over 500 structures, though the exact number of homes affected is still unclear.

Governor Lujan Grisham mentioned that a planned flyover would provide a more accurate assessment of the damage.

The emergency declaration has enabled the allocation of additional funds and resources to manage the crisis in Lincoln County and the Mescalero Apache Reservation.

Despite the extensive damage, no other serious injuries have been reported.

The fire, which has consumed more than 31 square miles, is part of a larger trend, with wildfires burning over 3,280 square miles nationwide this year, surpassing the 10-year average according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

California faces new wildfires amid dry conditions

In California, new wildfires emerged even as firefighters made progress on existing blazes.

The Aero Fire near Copperopolis prompted evacuations after spreading over more than 8 square miles.

Cal Fire reported that three structures were destroyed and one was damaged, but improved weather conditions allowed firefighters to achieve 23% containment.

Another fire, the Sites Fire, erupted in rural Colusa County, covering nearly 16 square miles and was only 5% contained by Tuesday evening.

Despite the challenging conditions, some red flag warnings were expected to expire, indicating a potential decrease in fire weather conditions.

Progress on other California fires

In northern Los Angeles County, firefighters made headway against the 4-day-old Post Fire, which remained just over 24 square miles in size and was 31% contained.

Efforts focused on protecting infrastructure and recreational areas, with significant progress reported on the northern side of the blaze.

In Sonoma County, the Point Fire was 40% contained and remained under 2 square miles in size.

The Hesperia Fire in San Bernardino County was 86% contained, allowing for the lifting of some evacuation warnings and road closures.

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