ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Last month’s McBride Fire in Ruidoso killed two and destroyed more than 200 homes. Now, three Texans who lost their vacation properties in the fire are suing PNM, claiming the electric company is to blame for the fire.

The plaintiff’s attorney, Joe Lovell, said they brought in their own team of investigators to pinpoint the cause of the fire. “It was a tree right by that power line that fell right on top of the lines,” said Lovell. “In windy conditions like this, the wind picks up that fire, and within minutes you have conflagration.”

The lawsuit claims a tree fell on a PNM powerline near the 100 block of Warrior Drive, starting the fire. Lovell said even if the tree was out of the easement, PNM has a responsibility to make sure there are no threats to the powerlines. According to the lawsuit, the fire destroyed the plaintiff’s properties on Gavilan Canyon Road.


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“Wind events in southern New Mexico, those are certainly foreseeable. And power companies know full well that they have to expect and design and maintain their facilities in order to withstand these foreseeable risks,” said Lovell. “Anybody that’s had fifth-grade geometry can tell you that that tree’s coming down on top of that power line. That’s not something that’s not unforeseeable.”

He also claimed this is not an isolated incident. “When you walk that power line, you see over the years, other trees that have fallen into the easement. I mean it’s just littered with trees that have fallen into the easement,” said Lovell. In the lawsuit, plaintiffs are asking for a jury trial and for PNM to pay damages.

“Wildfire mitigation is a priority. Consequently, PNM ensures that our customers receive safe and reliable power by maintaining our easements through aerial surveys and vegetation management. We will continue to cooperate with state investigators and will work with all involved parties in this litigation,” said Shannon Jackson, PNM spokesperson, in an emailed statement.

KRQE News 13 asked if the area where the tree allegedly fell down was surveyed but has not heard back. The lawsuit also names Trees LLC, which works with PNM to control vegetation. Lovell said the company told him they were not responsible for the area of 100 Warrior Drive in Ruidoso.