Villagers are scared to death by New Mexico wildfires

Video caption, New Mexico wildfire fills residential area with smoke

Residents of a New Mexico village described their panic as two wildfires ravaged a mountain range, prompting evacuations, an emergency declaration and one death.

The two fires converged near Ruidoso, inside a tribal reservation, forcing its 7,800 residents to flee.

They are the South Fork Fire, which has burned more than 1,400 structures since it burned Monday, and the Salt Fire, which is raging south of the village.

A Rudioso resident said he was “scared to death” after being engulfed in smoke.

“We’ve been through several fires in the 19 years we’ve been there, and none have been as bad as this one,” Frank Loya, 83, told the Reuters news agency.

Both fires have burned more than 20,000 acres and remain 0% contained, according to an update from officials Tuesday evening.

“The horrific South Fork and Salt Fires have ravaged our land and properties, and forced thousands of people to flee their homes,” said New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, who declared the state ’emergency. “We are deploying all available resources to control these fires. »

The death was confirmed by his office, but no details were given.

Christy Hood, a real estate agent in Ruidoso, told The Associated Press how she fled with her husband, two children and dogs without even taking clothes or a toothbrush. Residents were asked to evacuate on Monday without attempting to gather their belongings.

“As we were leaving, there were flames in front of me and beside me,” she said. “And all the animals were running, charging, trying to get out.”

Most of the hundreds of destroyed structures were likely homes, said George Ducker of the New Mexico Forestry Division.

He told the BBC that both fires had spread due to drought and wind, but their origin was still under investigation.

The fires caused the partial closure of U.S. Highway 70 south of the village and telephone outages that posed a challenge to Ruidoso rescue workers.

Neighboring communities opened shelters for evacuees, and the city of Roswell freed up hospital space for patients evacuated from Ruidoso Hospital.

Wildfires in New Mexico are not unusual, and fire forecasts for this year predict normal activity, Mr. Ducker said.

But parts of southeastern New Mexico are experiencing what is being described as an “exceptional drought.”

Ruidoso attracts tourists to its trails, parks, and wilderness because of its proximity to the Lincoln National Forest.

In California, firefighters are battling another wildfire north of Los Angeles, where more than 15,000 acres of land have burned and hundreds of people have been forced to evacuate.

The Post Fire was 31% contained as of Tuesday evening, according to the Cal Fire website.

The continent is smothered by extreme heat

The wildfires come as parts of North America face the first heat wave of the season.

More than 70 million Americans, or about one in five people, remain under heat alert Wednesday. Heat alerts also now apply in six Canadian provinces.

Some cities, including Chicago, exceeded previous temperature records for this time of year.

Wildfires occur naturally in many parts of the world and their overall numbers have declined over the past two decades.

Scientists say extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and intense due to human-caused climate change, fueled by activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.

Heat waves have become more frequent and more intense globally since 1950, according to the UN climate body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Such hot weather can create conditions that make wildfires more likely to spread, according to the IPCC, by contributing to longer droughts.

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