Winds wreak havoc in fires near Las Vegas; a major fire breaks out near Ruidoso | Environment


The Hermits Peak Fire northwest of Las Vegas, NM, continued to lap up acres on Tuesday, forcing people from their homes and putting livestock at risk. By Wednesday April 13, the blaze had spread to 6,276 acres, driven by gusts as strong as 70 miles per hour through Tuesday evening.

High winds prevented helicopters and other aircraft from dropping water and fire retardant on the blaze, said Steven La-Sky, spokesman for the incident management team overseeing the blaze.

San Miguel County officials reported that nine small communities near the fire had been evacuated late Tuesday afternoon and at least 11 more were on hold. The scene repeated itself in various parts of New Mexico, with the Spillover Fire burning near Roswell, the 850-Acre Big Hole Fire near Belen, and a small fire progressing through Nogal Canyon.

But a new situation – the McBride Fire near Ruidoso – threatened to cause even greater devastation, burning what was initially believed to be 15,000 acres near the town in just hours. Mandatory evacuations have been called for in several nearby areas, according to a Lincoln National Forest spokesperson.

The acreage update has now been revised to 4,132 acres.

High winds across the state crippled firefighters as they tried to quell threats.

“If the wind dropped, we could get this thing under control very quickly,” La-Sky said of the Hermits Peak Fire. He said he hoped the fire could be fought from the air as well as from the ground on Wednesday.

“It’s really active,” he said of the fire. “These winds are really pushing him.”

As of Tuesday morning, 244 firefighters battled the Hermits Peak Fire and more are on the way, he said.

Fire authorities said Tuesday the Hermits Peak Fire had swept through 1,908 acres, nearly three times as much as it had on Monday.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Julie Anne Overton, spokeswoman for the Santa Fe National Forest, said a three-acre fire broke out in Dalton Canyon, east of Santa Fe and between Tererro and Pecos. . Overton said the fire near the Gilman Tunnels was brought under control by late afternoon. The Dalton fire, 1½ acres, had not been brought under control at that time.

Las Vegas-area officials opened the old Memorial Middle School building to evacuees. The Santa Fe Trail Event Center has been made available for endangered livestock. Kenny Zamora of the event center, also known as Zamora Arena, said Tuesday night that a small number of cattle were brought in.

Some ranchers in the area have also offered space to other ranchers and farmers.

“That’s what cowboy families and cowboys do,” said Sara Jo Mathews of Mathews Land and Cattle, about six miles north of Las Vegas. “Neighbors help each other when they can.”

As of late Tuesday afternoon, a single elderly woman with her dogs and cats was in the old college, said Jesus Romero, San Miguel County deputy superintendent. Romero said the woman had relatives planning to pick her up.

“Last night there were a handful of people,” Romero said, but they mostly stayed in campers in the school parking lot.

San Miguel County emergency manager Dennis Esquibel said seven or eight people signed up to use the shelter later Tuesday.

Two motel managers in Las Vegas said they were busy, but it was mostly with the firefighters staying there.

Matthew Romero, a livestock inspector in the district that includes the Hermits Peak Fire, said he was aware of some people moving horses away from the fire. A few people moved cattle to other pastures or to friends’ pastures, he said.

“With high winds,” Romero said, “it can be worrying for everyone.”


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