The evacuation orders that were lifted on Friday included approximately 60% of the 4,500 people who had been ordered to evacuate their homes after the fire broke out Tuesday. Kerry Gladden, spokesperson for Village of Ruidoso, told The Associated Press Saturday. The evacuation estimates had previously been reported at around 5,000.
Gladden stated earlier in a media briefing that "the big story is that we're currently in a repopulation mode."
Officials indicated that the evacuation orders still in force may be lifted within the next few days.
Barbara Arthur, who owned a 28-site wooded RV park with wind damage but not burning, was among those waiting to return.
Arthur said, "We feel blessed." She was at a motel on Saturday, preparing taco ingredients for another RV park to be taken to dinner with those displaced by the fire, which included her tenants.
Arthur claimed that the fire started within half a mile (0.8 km) of her park. She also said that she saw flames as she was evacuating. She said, "It's probably the most frightening thing I've ever experienced in my 71 years of life."
Bob Moroney works for Ruidoso River Resort as a nightly rental manager. He said that three groups of approximately 15 people were affected by the fire. They are now staying in the units.
He said that these are people who left work at dawn and never returned home. Many of their homes were "total losses." They are now down to the foundations and chimneys.
Keller Williams Casa Ideal qualifier broker Moroney said that the displaced are trying to relax while they look for insurance.
Dave Bales, fire incident commander, stated that crews worked to extinguish hot spots and to clear lines around the fire's perimeter in order to prevent it from spreading. Although the fire is not contained, Bales expressed satisfaction with the work so far and hoped for better results in the days ahead.
Bales stated that Saturday's weather was favorable due to the lower wind gust and higher humidity. We have lines in. He said, "We just want to make them hold in that wind."
The winds and fire that caused it to spread down power lines knocked out electricity for 18,000 customers. Wilson Guinn, a manager at the Public Service Co., stated that electricity has been restored to all customers except for a few dozen.
Guinn stated that people who return to their homes should be careful and contact utility officials if there are downed lines.
Guinn stated, "We might have missed something." "Don't touch them, fix or roll them up.
Gladden, the spokesperson for the village, stated that residents should also be aware of the possibility that trees could have been damaged by strong winds earlier in week.
She stated, "It is important that this entire event started with a significant windstorm."
Residents reported that hotlines were lit up on Friday afternoon. Fire information officer Mike De Fries stated that more smoke was being produced by flare-ups in the interior of the fire, where flames discovered pockets of unburned fuel.
De Fries stated Saturday that the fire began in the neighborhood, and spread to other areas. The cause is being investigated by authorities.
De Fries stated that Ruidoso has a number of areas where multiple homes have been destroyed and many more are being destroyed within the same neighborhood. "Then there's the obvious evidence and the trail of fire that it spread further north and west, sometimes in different neighborhoods, as it ravaged the Village of Ruidoso on its north and east sides."
The names of the couple who perished have not been released by authorities. After worried relatives contacted police, they discovered their bodies. They claimed that the couple had intended to evacuate Tuesday after the fire erupted but were not found.
The fire had consumed 9.6 miles (25 km2) of timber and brush as of Saturday.
According to fire scientists, the increase in wildfires has been caused by hotter and dryer weather combined with decades of suppression. This problem is made worse by the Western megadrought, which has been around for more than 20 years and which studies have linked to climate change.
Other blazes are also burning in the state, such as the Nogal Canyon fire northwest of Ruidoso. De Fries stated that the fire started because of downed power lines and has destroyed six homes and eight outbuildings. The area has been evacuated.
De Fries stated that "we are in a time right now, even though it is very early in the year", when places such as New Mexico have experienced extra dry spells. Combining all that with winds makes it a serious concern. You can see the increase in fires and new starts each day that show that conditions are not ideal for fire starting.
Ruidoso was home to the worst wildfire in New Mexico's history a decade ago. More than 240 homes were destroyed and almost 70 square miles (181 kilometers) of forest had been blighted by lightning.
Ruidoso is home to many elderly residents all year. However, Ruidoso's population of approximately 8,000 grows to around 25,000 in the summer months when Texans and New Mexicans who are from warmer climates seek refuge here.