RUIDOSO, N.M. (KRQE) – A downed tree into a power line sparked the devastating McBride Fire last spring, burning through homes and acres of Ruidoso. Now, New Mexico’s largest utility is getting sued for it with the village government claiming PNM’s negligence led to the fire.
More than 6-thousand acres burned in the deadly 2022 McBride wildfire through Ruidoso. “You had incredible winds, 70-80 miles per hour, you had incredible drought all of these things are factors that we knew about,” said attorney, Brian Colón.
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Investigators determined a wind-blown tree hit a PNM power line, sparking the fast-moving blaze that eventually destroyed 207 buildings. “We find these wildfires to be more and more frequent and our job is to hold those folks accountable who create or failed to manage the fires properly,” said Colón.
Colón and Singleton Schreiber of New Mexico are now suing PNM in part claiming the company failed to maintain vegetation by their powerlines, which caused the fire. “We don’t believe all the parties did what was required of them to protect the community and protect individuals,” said Colón.
While PNM claims that tree was outside its right of way, the village said the utility should be held responsible for the fire which led to a loss of work and damaged natural resources and parks. They also claim that PNM should have de-energized lines before the wind storm. “They were injured deeply whether it’s the wildfire directly or the resulting flooding that took place after the wildfire,” said Colón.
Ruidoso is asking for money for damages but attorneys said a total dollar figure hasn’t been calculated. “At the end of the day the Village of Ruidoso deserves to be made whole,” said Colón.
Attorneys said they hope with this lawsuit they can help protect communities in the future. “We had our largest wildfire in history for the state of New Mexico and I think as we go forward we’re going to continue to see issues with wildfires in our land of enchantment,” said Colón.
PNM issued the following statement:
“Public reports have noted a tree spanning approximately 50 feet tall that was outside of our right-of-way had contacted a powerline due to extremely high winds with reported gusts of up to 90MPH. PNM proactively employs vegetation management and wildfire mitigation practices that comply with applicable authorities.”Shannon Jackson, PNM Spokesperson