Ruidoso Under Fire: Evacuations Enforced As Wildfire Spreads

 June 19, 2024

The entire village of Ruidoso, New Mexico, is enduring forced evacuations due to the rapid onslaught of the South Fork Fire.

The South Fork Fire sparked near Ruidoso on the Mescalero Apache reservation has prompted full evacuations and emergency responses on closed critical highways.

According to Daily Mail, the fire began a mere 2-3 miles from the limits of Ruidoso’s village, evolving quickly across dry lands and prompting officials to issue urgent evacuation orders. On Monday, the mandate was declared, urging around 5,000 residents to evacuate immediately without the ability to secure personal belongings or safeguard their homes.

Emergency routes and closures

Those fleeing have been directed to exit via Sudderth Drive leading to Highway 70 towards Roswell. Significantly, Highway 48 and Highway 70 at Apache Summit have been closed, obstructing usual traffic and complicating escape efforts.

Roswell, a city about 70 miles east of the fire-stricken area, has become a refuge for many evacuees, providing necessary shelter and support.

The inferno grew in intensity as the daylight faded, covering at least 3,000 acres by nightfall. This dramatic expansion exposed more regional areas to smoke and fire spread hazards.

Response from firefighting crews

The frontlines see Smokey Bear Hot Shots, an elite firefighting team, battling the blaze with reinforcements from aerial and ground crews. This rapid response underscores the severe nature of the South Fork Fire and the broader risks it poses to the community and surrounding areas.

In a grim reminder of the region’s susceptibility to wildfires, a second fire named the Salt Fire is concurrently ravaging tribal lands to the south of Ruidoso.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has stated her administration’s active involvement in managing the crisis:

My administration is in close contact with state, tribal, and federal officials about the status of these fast-moving fires near Ruidoso, and we are quickly deploying as many resources as possible to protect people and property. I want to thank all first responders and others who are battling these fires, managing the evacuation, and providing crucial emergency services, including the town of Roswell which rapidly stood up shelter for evacuees.

With a population ordinarily around 8,000, Ruidoso's charming setting usually draws recreational tourists, predominantly due to the nearby Ski Apache. A significant portion, about 60% of the homes, are vacation residences, emphasizing that the impact of the fire stretches beyond just the residents.

Hospitals have prepared extra space to tend to those needing medical care from the fire-affected areas, and facilities to shelter livestock displaced by the evacuation are also in place.

Community and resilience

Though overwhelmed by the abrupt need to evacuate, the community's response has been a testament to the unity and resilience of the townspeople and nearby cities.

As efforts continue, the focus remains on ensuring the safety of all residents and first responders, managing the immediate threats while starting to consider eventual recovery and rebuilding.


The South Fork Fire has necessitated drastic measures, including the total evacuation of Ruidoso and the closure of key transportation routes. Emergency services, aided by teams like the Smokey Bear Hot Shots, are tirelessly combatting the encroaching flames to prevent further loss and damage. As regional support like the one from Roswell pours in, New Mexico demonstrates its intrinsic spirit of unity and resilience in the face of such challenging circumstances.

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