Flash Flooding Hits Wildfire-Ravaged New Mexico Community

 June 20, 2024

The devastating impact of wildfires in south-central New Mexico has been compounded by flash flooding due to recent severe weather.

According to Fox Weather, an area already distressed by wildfires now faces additional threats from heavy rains causing flooding and mandatory evacuations.

Last Wednesday night, as firefighters combatted the blazes that had destroyed vast swathes of property, heavy rainfall began to fall on the charred land. The result was rapid flash flooding along the newly formed burn scars, an area already grappling with the loss of over 1,000 homes and other buildings.

Rising Floodwaters Amid Fiery Chaos

The dual presence of fire and water created dangerous, unpredictable conditions. Patrick Pearson, 60, tragically lost his life with burn injuries near the remains of his home, the once-popular Swiss Chalet Inn.

His body was discovered by the New Mexico State Police shortly after another horrifying find—the skeletal remains of an unidentified victim in a burnt vehicle in Ruidoso. These incidents underscored the severe and immediate human toll of the wildfires.

As the South Fork and Salt Fires consumed over 23,000 acres, including lands held by the Mescalero Apache tribe and government agencies around Ruidoso, firefighters faced a relentless challenge. Governor Michelle Luan Grisham acknowledged the crisis by formally declaring a state of emergency.

Emergency Responses and Evacuation Directives

Responding to the emergency, a staggering deployment of resources followed. More than 800 firefighters, supported by over 40 National Guardsmen, tackled the flames which had zero containment. Evacuations were widespread as the fires, fueled by strong winds and low humidity, showed explosive behavior from their onset on Monday morning.

The Governor, during a press conference, expressed the gravity of the situation: "Today, we face two devastating, enormous fires," a statement that highlighted not just the scale but the baffling complexity of managing such disasters concurrently.

In addition, emergency shelters were set up in Roswell and at state fairgrounds, catering to displaced residents and livestock. This arrangement ensured that those evacuated had a temporary refuge amidst the chaos.

Unpredictable Nature Challenges Responders

New challenges emerged as the weather worsened. The National Weather Service (NWS) highlighted the peril that loomed over Ruidoso and its surroundings: Torrential rain was exacerbating the already vulnerable burn scars, creating what they described as an "EXTREMELY DANGEROUS situation."

The Salt Fire, which affected the Mescalero Reservation, prompted notification from fire officials about the imminent risk to the nearby Ruidoso Downs, describing it as making a "significant run towards" the area.

With these fires still raging, weather forecasts remained grim. Flash Flood Watches continued through to late Thursday, signaling more difficult days ahead for a community already deeply scarred by the disaster.


The residents of south-central New Mexico continue to battle an unprecedented culmination of wildfires and severe weather. With thousands of acres burned, lives lost, and continuous efforts by first responders to mitigate further damage, the community braces for an ongoing struggle. The resolute actions taken by emergency services and the administration are vital in safeguarding the lives and properties of those affected.

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