USA — Ruidoso area homeowners are back home after a 10,000-acre wildfire forced several neighborhoods to evacuate Sunday afternoon.
Five homes and several barns and sheds have been burned by the fire. Fire crews said the fire is not spreading, but it’s not entirely extinguished.
Fire crews will monitor hot spots, but fire officials said they don’t expect any big flare ups near residential areas overnight because the weather is cooperating.
The White Fire started at about 1:30 p.m. Sunday and has grown rapidly due to high winds and thick fuels. Another problem for fire crews are rapidly changing winds in the area.
The fire is in steep, rough, rocky terrain, and it started near Gavalin Canyon and has burned east through Ruidoso Downs, across Highway 70 toward Forest Service Road 120.
Area schools will resume classes on Tuesday. Town officials are still urging area residents to conserve water.
“I looked out and saw smoke back this way, but I wasn’t too concerned,” said resident Dave Hyde.
Hyde said the fire came just within two feet of his home. He lost a shed, but he said it could have been worse.
“We still have a home. We’re not living in the camp trailer,” Hyde said.
Low-lying flames and smoldering grass is still visible from Ellen Dilley’s front door, but to her surprise, her home is still intact.
“I couldn’t sleep. My husband sleeps real easy, but I was having nightmares,” Dilley said.
Unlike Dilley, the Keiths found their reality was a little less bright.
“Our house was saved, but we got some smoke damage,” Clifton Keith said.
Keith and his wife, Laura, watched Sunday as the flames raced toward the steps of their back door.
“It’s scary to watch everything burn right in front of your eyes,” she said.
Angela Minter’s family also lost a home from the fire.
“(We’re) still in shock right now. (We’re) trying to figure out how to clean up,” Minter said.
Gateway Church has been designated as the official evacuation center.
Veronica Holt said her sister is out of town, but her house was in the fire’s path.
“She told me to get all of their picture albums and their birth certificates and my grandma’s watch. (She) passed away four years ago,” Holt said. “I was nervous. It made me sick to my stomach. I was worried that I didn’t get everything out.”
Twenty fire engines and 251 fire workers are at the scene to battle the blaze. The fire is not contained at all. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
FEMA has approved a fire management of the assistance grant to help cover the costs of firefighting efforts in Ruidoso Downs.
Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management continues to monitor the situation.