Two dead in New Mexico wildfires, 500 homes destroyed


(Reuters) -Two people have died in wildfires in southern New Mexico that have burned around 500 homes and triggered the evacuation of about 8,000 residents from the mountain resort community of Ruidoso.

The unidentified skeletal remains of a person were found in the driver’s seat of a burned out car, New Mexico State Police reported on Wednesday. Another victim was identified as 60-year-old Patrick Pearson.

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham told reporters around 500 homes were thought to be among the more than 1,400 buildings razed by the two blazes, making it one of the most destructive wildfires in state history.

The forest area around 135 miles southeast of Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest city, has suffered a string of wildfires, including one that killed two people in 2022.

Lujan Grisham on Wednesday requested a major disaster declaration from President Joe Biden for the South Fork and Salt fires, which have burned over 23,000 acres (9,308 hectares) to the north and south of Ruidoso.

New Mexico is caught in a decades-long drought that has made wildfires more destructive and faster moving.

In 2022 the state suffered the largest blaze in the continental United States which burned over 341,000 acres (138,000 hectares).

(Reporting By Andrew Hay; editing by Miral Fahmy)

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