- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 29, 2016

RUIDOSO, N.M. (AP) - Public schools in the village of Ruidoso remained closed Tuesday after firefighters stopped the advance of a wildfire in the southern New Mexico mountains.

Ruidoso’s high school and nearby middle school were evacuated Monday due to the approaching fire. Fire crews used the high school parking lot as a staging area, village spokeswoman Kerry Gladden said.

The two schools, each with about 600 students, were closed along with two elementary schools also served by a road being used by firefighting equipment.

By Tuesday afternoon, the fire had burned an estimated 125 acres of state, private and national forest covered with Ponderosa pine and grass. Containment was estimated at 30 percent.

Crews were able to withstand the strong winds that developed Tuesday afternoon.



“The red-flag conditions materialized but firefighters have been able to keep up with the activity,” said forest spokeswoman Loretta Benavidez. “They did have some spotting but they were able to catch it.”

About 150 personnel, including two hotshot crews, were assigned to the fire. Air tankers dropping fire retardant Monday also helped to keep the fire from growing.

Some of the firefighters were briefly called away Tuesday to catch four new starts before they got out of hand, Benavidez said.

The cause of those fires and the one near Ruidoso were under investigation.

On Monday, firefighters used back-burning to create a fire line to stop the fire from reaching the high school.

Ruidoso Fire Chief Harlan Vincent said fighting the blaze was a challenge because tanker trucks couldn’t reach fire lines.

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