For the past week, we have been keeping a concerned eye on the lightening-sparked “Little Bear Wildfire” in the Lincoln National Forest near Ruidoso, NM, which is in the area where my cousin JP, his wife, and her mother live. (n.b. This is the cousin, son of my mom’s oldest sister, who is wont to drive over and take us to lunch upon occasion.) Saturday, they were forced to evacuate their home, but they were also able to get their 4 horses and 2 dogs to safety. They spent Saturday night sleeping in their cars at the Lincoln County Fair Grounds in Capitan, NM. Since the electric power and cell phone coverage in their area has been out since early Saturday morning, we hadn’t heard from them until they were taken in by friends in Capitan, Sunday, where they now have cell phone service. My cousin’s wife was able to call their daughter yesterday evening and she sent the folks and me an email with the news that they and their animals are safe and under shelter. Yesterday, my cousin and a rancher friend were able to get into the evacuated area to feed cattle and confirmed that the fire had not yet crossed the highway into their immediate area.
Here are exerpts from an article on the Little Bear fire from the KQRE.com (Albuquerque, NM) website:
© Published : Tuesday, 12 Jun 2012, 12:25 PM MDT
RUIDOSO, N.M. (KRQE TV) – Governor Susana Martinez declared a state of emergency Tuesday in Lincoln County due to the Little Bear Fire. The number of structures that were destroyed by the Little Bear Wildfire near Ruidoso continues to grow. The Lincoln County Tax Assessor reports the total number of structures burned is 154**. . . But there is a ray of hope. The firefight has been dramatically boosted by more crews and more cooperative weather. The fire is now 30 percent contained. Tuesday there has been a huge spike in manpower and more than 980 personnel working to suppress the flames. Also a DC-10 air tanker is on standby in Mesa, Arizona. It was flown from its base in Victorville, California Monday night and it’s ready to deploy at a moments notice.
It is the ninth day since lightning sparked the fire in rough terrain near Ruidoso. The blaze has burned more than 36,000 acres (52 sq.miles). Crews were able to get a better damage assessment and say roughly 154 structures are burned. . .No new evacuations have been issued and with cooler temperatures Tuesday officials say they expect to make a lot more ground. . . Governor Susana Martinez is in Ruidoso and she signed a state of emergency declaration for Lincoln County. That makes funding and more resources available for the areas affected by the fire.”
While we are grateful for the safety of our family members, we are saddened by the devastation resulting from this fire. Our hearts go out to those who have lost homes and property, and our thanks go to the fire crews battling the fire, and to the relief workers caring for the evacuees.
For the history buffs in the crowd, Lincoln County, New Mexico, was the site of the infamous Lincoln County War, which involved, among others, Billy the Kid, and his nemesis, Sheriff Pat Garrett, as well as cattleman John Chisum and General Lew Wallace who was governor of the New Mexico territories during this time (1878-1881). Gen. Wallace, who had a distinguished military career which included commanding Union troops during the Civil War, is the author of the historical novel, “Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ” (published in November, 1880) which he completed and published during his governorship. (N.B., John Chisum is not to be confused with Jesse Chisholm of “The Old Chisholm Trail” fame. The film “Chisum” with actor John Wayne in the title role, and the more historically accurate 1988 film “Young Guns” with Billy the Kid played by actor Emilio Estevez (son of actor Martin Sheen, and brother of actor Charlie Sheen) are both fictionalized accounts of events in the Lincoln County War.)
**Per the Ruidoso News, Posted: 06/12/2012 11:24:27 AM MDT, estimated property damage is now at 175 structures valued at about $11.5 million with another $1.2 in land damage.