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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

FBI offers reward for information about New Mexico wildfires



The wreckage of the Swiss Chalet Hotel, destroyed by the South Fork fire, in Ruidoso, N.M., on Thursday, June 20, 2024. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is offering an award for information about two wildfires in southern New Mexico that left two people dead, prompted the evacuation of thousands and scorched more than 24,000 acres. (Paul Ratje/The New York Times)

By Alexandra E. Petri


The FBI is offering an award for information about two wildfires in southern New Mexico that left two people dead, prompted the evacuation of thousands and scorched more than 24,000 acres.


The agency is offering up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the “person or persons responsible for starting the fires” near the village of Ruidoso, the agency said in a statement.


The FBI asked for the public’s help in identifying what sparked the blazes.


Margot Cravens, a spokesperson for the FBI’s field office in Albuquerque, declined to comment Sunday evening but confirmed that the agency was assisting with the investigation.


The South Fork and Salt fires began June 17 amid sweltering temperatures and were still burning Sunday evening. Extreme temperatures, low humidity and heavy rain in the area have complicated efforts to extinguish the fires, which are burning in the Mescalero Apache tribal area, on U.S. Forest Service land and in areas around Ruidoso.


The South Fork fire, the larger of the two wildfires, has burned more than 17,000 acres and was only 31% contained Sunday, according to New Mexico Fire Information, a website run by federal and state agencies.


The Salt fire has burned more than 7,000 acres of tribal land in mostly inaccessible mountain terrain and remains only 7% contained, authorities said.


The two people who died were found June 18 in or near Ruidoso, according to the New Mexico State Police. One of them, a 60-year-old man, was found with burns on the side of a road near a motel, police said. The other victim was found in the driver’s seat of a burned vehicle on a road.


About 1,400 structures have been destroyed, and about 8,000 people from Ruidoso and the surrounding areas were forced to evacuate, authorities said.


Ruidoso announced it would be lifting evacuation orders for full-time residents, permitting them to return beginning 8 a.m. Monday. Some homes may be without gas, water and electricity, and air quality may be poor because of smoke and ash, according to a statement on the village’s website. Residents are being advised to bring a week’s worth of groceries and water.


Some areas will remain off-limits because they are considered crime scenes and are “undergoing recovery efforts,” the statement said.

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