Disaster Relief responding to New Mexico wildfires

ROSWELL, N.M. (BP) — Chaplains and feeding units with the New Mexico Baptist Disaster Relief are working at two Red Cross shelters in response to two wildfires in the southern part of the state.

State director Ed Greene told Baptist Press today that one team is at the Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell campus. The other is located at Capitan High School in Capitan, 10 miles north of the mountain tourist village of Ruidoso.

Two blazes – the South Fork Fire and Salt Fire – essentially surround Ruidoso and have burned more than 24,000 acres, with smoke cover extending as far as Iowa.

“As of this morning our feeding operation is expanding to supply other shelters in the areas as well, so things are rather fluid,” Greene said.

“As the fire is contained in the weeks ahead, we will move into a cleanup and recovery mission. This will be a long-term response which will involve resources from many of our Southern Baptist Disaster Relief brothers and sisters across the country.”

Pastor Todd Sullens of First Baptist Church, Ruidoso, told the Baptist New Mexican that evacuees moved east toward Roswell, Alamogordo and beyond after an hours-long jam out of town. Some stayed at the church because of the pace of traffic. Others remained where they were.

“It’s the biggest thing we’ve ever seen,” said Sullens, who added that church members have lost property. “It’s been quite the journey over the past couple of days, but we’re trying to encourage folks to keep their eyes on Jesus.”

The South Fork fire was discovered Monday, June 17, at 9 a.m. on the Mescalero Tribal land, said New Mexico Fire Information, a website run through various state and federal agencies. The fire’s cause remains under investigation.

“The two most important things people can do to help is pray for those affected as well as those responding,” said Greene. Donations can be sent online through the Baptist Convention of New Mexico by choosing “Disaster Relief” in the “Select a fund” menu.

Summer months are the typical wildfire season, though fire experts say that time is lengthening. Currently there are 17 large, uncontained fires nationwide, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. This year, a recorded 19,034 wildfires have burned 2,128,208 acres, reflecting fewer total fires but more total acres than the 10-year averages.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Scott Barkley is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press.)

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