facebook app symbol  twitter  linkedin  instagram 1

Close to 25,000 acres have been burned in two ongoing wildfires on the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation and U.S. Forest Service lands in South Central New Mexico, causing mandatory evacuations, utility outages, scorched structures, and at least two deaths, tribal and state officials confirmed.

Since Monday, June 17, more than 8,000 residents in Southern New Mexico have been evacuated from their homes due to reports of two wildfires: The South Fork fire near Ruidoso, New Mexico, and the Salt fire, 7 miles west of Mescalero, New Mexico, on the tribe’s reservation. 

In the week since, the fires have razed 1,400 structures, caused widespread power outages, and even killed two people. Last Wednesday, New Mexico State police confirmed two fire-related deaths, with potential additional fatalities to come. Over the weekend, residents were hit by a second natural disaster—flash flooding—that limited firefighter access to the burns on Sunday, according to officials.

Never miss Indian Country’s biggest stories and breaking news. Sign up to get our reporting sent straight to your inbox every weekday morning. 

Evacuations were lifted in the area by Monday, though certain road closures remain in effect, and residents are urged “to stay informed and cautious, especially with the potential for flooding and debris flows from incoming storms,” according to the state’s wildfire information hub.

As of Monday morning, The South Fork fire, the larger of the two, had scorched more than 17,550 acres and was 37 percent contained, according to New Mexico’s official update.

The second burn, the Salt fire on the Mescalero Apache Reservation, has burned more than 7,000 acres of tribal land and remains only 7 percent contained, according to authorities.

On June 20, President Joe Biden issued a disaster declaration for parts of southern New Mexico, freeing up funding and more resources as crews worked to keep the flames from spreading. Currently, more than 1,110 personnel are staffed on fire response and suppression, according to local authorities. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham declared a state of emergency for Lincoln County and the Mescalero Apache Reservation.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is currently investigating the cause of the flames, which ignited amid temperatures well into the 90s. The agency is offering up to $100,000 for information on “the person or persons responsible for starting the fires”  near Ruidoso, New Mexico.

More Stories Like This

Public Wants Indigenous Knowledge to Manage Bears Ears National Monument
Seldovia Village Tribe Becomes First in Alaska to Get Tsunami Preparedness Certification
DOI Announces $120 Million Funding Opportunity for Tribal Climate Resilience
Seneca Nation Sues City for More than 450,000 Gallons of Wastewater Overflow
Department of Interior Rejects Ambler Access Project in Alaska

Join us in observing 100 years of Native American citizenship. On June 2, 1924, President Calvin Coolidge signed the Indian Citizenship Act, granting Native Americans US citizenship, a pivotal moment in their quest for equality. This year marks its centennial, inspiring our special project, "Heritage Unbound: Native American Citizenship at 100," observing their journey with stories of resilience, struggle, and triumph. Your donations fuel initiatives like these, ensuring our coverage and projects honoring Native American heritage thrive. Your donations fuel initiatives like these, ensuring our coverage and projects honoring Native American heritage thrive.

About The Author
Native News Online Staff
Author: Native News Online StaffEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Native News Online is one of the most-read publications covering Indian Country and the news that matters to American Indians, Alaska Natives and other Indigenous people. Reach out to us at [email protected].