The flames, which burned for days, were fueled by wind and are believed to have killed a couple in New Mexico and destroyed more 200 homes.
The remains of a New Mexico couple were discovered near their burned home. A wind-driven wildfire had charred more 200 residences in the southern part.
Fire crews pointed to a break from the relentless stream of wind gusts on Thursday as their chance to fight the deadly wildfire that killed two people, Ruidoso spokesperson Kerry Gladden stated Thursday.
Police investigators and firefighters found the older couple’s remains Wednesday afternoon after family members notified Ruidoso police that the two had tried to evacuate but were unaccounted for.
Gladden stated that the remains were found near the house but not inside it. Gladden also said that no additional information was available at this time. Authorities were trying to confirm the identities.
The fire moved into a more densely populated area on Ruidoso’s northeastern side Wednesday afternoon, prompting more evacuations. Laura Rabon, spokesperson for Lincoln National Forest, interrupted the fire briefing and advised people to get in cars and leave the area where flames had jumped onto a road.
Authorities have instructed as many as 4,500 people for evacuation. Rabon said that crews prevented the flames from spreading further into the village over night.
The fire has burned 23 km2 (9 miles) of grass and forest. Strong winds that battered the area left behind trees toppled and power lines down. Crews continued to work on Thursday to restore power in parts of the village that had been without it since Monday.
Although the cause of the fire is still under investigation, forecasters and fire officials warned that persistent dry and windy weather conditions had prompted another day’s red flag warnings for the eastern region of New Mexico and other parts the Midwest.
Incident Commander Dave Bales said the strategy was “attack while we can,” noting that winds were expected to pick up Thursday afternoon and again Friday.
“We’re trying to keep this fire as small as possible, especially because it’s right in the community,” he said. “We’ve had a loss of a lot of structures so our crews are right there on the fire-front, going as direct as possible.”
On Wednesday, six new large fires were reported: three in Texas and two in Colorado. One in Oklahoma was also reported. Wildland firefighters and support personnel attempted to control 11 large fires that had charred more then 103 sq km (40 miles) in five different states.
Thursday’s National Interagency Fire Center report showed that 18,550 wildfires have erupted over 3,237sq kilometers (1,250sq mi) since the beginning of the year. That’s well above the 10-year average of 12,290 wildfires and 2162.64sq km (835sq miles) burned.
Fire scientists believe that the increase in wildfires has been attributed to hotter and drier conditions, as well as decades of fire suppression. This problem is made worse by the Western megadrought, which has been around for more than 20 years and has been linked to human-caused global warming.
Wildfires were also raging in New Mexico’s northwest, near Ruidoso, and along the Rio Grande south-of Albuquerque.