RUIDOSO, N.M. (KRQE) - Firefighters gave Ruidoso a little breathing room Tuesday securing a containment line on an active edge of the Little Bear Fire six miles northwest of the heart of Ruidoso.
The containment line itself runs seven miles, and that's good news for Ruidoso residents.
The fire was active in that area Tuesday until a massive DC-10 air tanker that can drop nearly 12,000 gallons of fire retardant at a time cooled things down so firefighters could expand their work.
At least 234 structures have burned since late Friday when the small and once-contained fire exploded out of the White Mountain Wilderness and over fire lines marching down the northeastern flank of Sierra Blanca.
Officials said a formal assessment counted 224 residential structures h and 10 outbuildings destroyed. Teams were on the ground Tuesday surveying the damage and indicated that number will likely grow.
The fire management team said it's the fire crews--the nearly 1,200 pairs of boots on the ground--that are working around the clock to get the job done.
"Just recently we got an updated map that shows those lines as contained," said Brad Pitassi of Southwest Area Incident Management Team said. "The threat to Ruidoso has been diminished today and all due to the effort and hard work of the firefighters out there on the ground"
Since Saturday village officials and the fire team have been concerned the southwestern flank of the blaze might spread to a canyon leading straight into the community.
Residents of Ruidoso's upper canyon area--described as a heavily wooded one-way-in, one-way-out neighborhood--remain on a precautionary alert for possible evacuation since Saturday.
Early Tuesday evening the fire-management team upped the containment figure to 35 percent from its reported 30 percent earlier in the day.
It's burned about 36,000, roughly a third the size of Albuquerque.
And it's not just firefighters attacking this monster.
There are two dozen low-risk state prison inmates building fire lines and working to protect homes.
The Corrections Department says the inmates get firefighter training, and that the job gives them a sense of purpose and pride.
No new evacuations have been issued, and with cooler temperatures Tuesday officials expected to make a lot more ground.
"This will make progress really move quite a bit faster because of the ability to move those folks into the areas and start doing a lot of that work," fire-information officer Joel Arnwine said earlier in the day. "We took some of these resources that didn't have an assignment this morning, made sure they had an assignment and really reinforced the work that's being done out there."
Gov. Susana Martinez has declared a state of emergency in Lincoln County freeing up funding and making additional state resources available for the community and for the firefight.
Meetings: Community meetings will be conducted in the main gymnasium of Ruidoso High School, 125 Warrior Road at 4:30 p.m. and at 7:00 p.m. Wednesday. A community meeting will also be conducted at the fairgrounds in Capitan at 7:00 p.m.
Lincoln County Commissioner Jackie Powell will conduct a brief meeting regarding the possibilities of flooding and damage in the Valley after the Little Bear fire. The meeting will be conducted at Hondo School on Highway 70, Hondo, NM at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday.
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