About 8 people are still missing in New Mexico wildfires, mayor says, as Ruidoso residents allowed to return

Andres Leighton/AP

As the search for more victims continues, residents of Ruidoso, New Mexico, were allowed to enter the village Monday for the first time since a pair of wildfires converged on the community, causing massive destruction.

“The search and rescue teams are in there. They’re with canines, and they’re still going property to property to property,” Mayor Lynn Crawford told radio station KRUI-AM Monday.

“Eight or less” individuals are still missing as of Tuesday, Crawford said. Among the missing are Ruidoso residents who authorities have not been able to get in touch with or people who were in the area on vacation in a short-term rental. The mayor said he couldn’t reveal the names or details of the missing people.

Two people were confirmed dead and 29 were initially identified as missing on Monday, Crawford said. A large section of the village where searches continue has been designated a “no entry” or “exclusion” zone, he added.

“The good news is that we still haven’t found any loss of life,” other than the two victims, the mayor said. “We have not found any bodies or any human remains, and so, we are so pleased about that.”

The South Fork and Salt Fires, which began last week, have destroyed more than 25,000 acres, with the South Fork Fire 37% contained and the Salt Fire 7% contained, according to the Southwest Area Incident Management Team. More than 1,000 firefighting personnel are battling the wildfires, and FBI special agents are helping figure out what started them.

The fires keep burning as the nation grapples this week with more extreme heat – the deadliest form of weather globally and one that makes wildfires more likely and destructive.

In Ruidoso, two wildfire deaths have been confirmed: One victim was identified as Patrick Pearson, 60, who was staying at the Swiss Chalet Inn that was destroyed in the fire; state police have not confirmed the other’s identity.

“The look on the children’s faces when you know they don’t understand,” Crawford told CNN affiliate KOAT, “when you see the people, the looks on their faces – it’s very difficult.”

CNN’s Stephanie Elam and Cindy Von Quednow contributed to this report.

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