FBI offers $10K reward for info leading to arrest in deadly New Mexico wildfires

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FBI offers K reward for info leading to arrest in deadly New Mexico wildfires

The FBI is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the suspects responsible for starting two New Mexico wildfires that killed two people and destroyed or damaged hundreds of structures. 

The South Fork and Salt Fires were discovered near Ruidoso, New Mexico on June 17. The FBI said the fires caused “significant damage.” 

The twin wildfires forced thousands to flee their homes. Full-time residents of Ruidoso will be allowed to return to their village Monday morning but were advised to bring drinking water, at least a week’s worth of food, and be prepared to be without gas, electricity or water. 

The FBI said it was seeking public assistance in identifying the cause of the fires, though a Sunday notice pointedly suggested humans were responsible. The $10,000 reward being offered by the bureau is for information “leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for starting the fires near Ruidoso, New Mexico.” 

Lincoln County Manager Randall Camp said Saturday that “we are approaching a thousand homes lost” in the fires.

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President Joe Biden has issued a disaster declaration for parts of southern New Mexico. The move freed up funding and more resources to help with recovery efforts including temporary housing, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property and other emergency work in Lincoln County and on lands belonging to the Mescalero Apache Tribe.

A charred car and the remains of the Swiss Chalet Hotel are pictured after being destroyed by the South Fork Fire in the mountain village of Ruidoso, N.M., Saturday, June 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

More than 1,100 firefighters continued to fight the flames in steep and rocky terrain Sunday. The South Fork and Salt fires are still burning on both sides of Ruidoso and a threat of flash floods still looms over the village.

The National Interagency Fire Center said the South Fork Fire, which reached 26 square miles, was 31% contained Sunday. It said the Salt Fire that has spread over 12 square miles was now 7% contained. Full containment isn’t expected until July 15.

new mexico wildfire

Smoke rises off the remains of a house destroyed by the South Fork Fire in the mountain village of Ruidoso, N.M., Saturday, June 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

Authorities said downed power lines, damaged water, sewer and gas lines plus flooding in burn scars continued to pose risks to firefighters and the public.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham toured some of the disaster area on Saturday with Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Deanne Criswell.

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Even with federal and state assistance on the table, Ruidoso Mayor Lynn Crawford estimates it could take at least five years for the area to fully recover.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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