Elevation a challenge in battling Little Bear fire near Ruidoso | News
Fire crews are making slow progress against the Little Bear fire near Ruidoso that has destroyed 224 homes and cabins.
The 37,000-acre fire is now 35 percent contained.
Helicopters are making water drops throughout the day to battle the flames. The pilots say one of the toughest things about fighting this fire is the mountain elevation. The altitude affects the amount of water they can hold because the thinner air provides less lift for the helicopters.
Pilot Tom Bradley tells KOB 4 seeing the 224 homes and cabins burned puts even more urgency on every water drop he makes.
"You fly over that every time you come back to the airport," said Bradley. "It's sobering. You fly over places where it looks like you can count the buildings that have been burned flat to the ground."
Pilots say so long as the winds stay down they will be able to put a good dousing on the flames.
There are twelve helicopters stationed at the Sierra Blanca Airport along with a large air tanker that can drop up to 13,000 gallons of retardant on the fire.
At Ski Apache, the resort found a creative way to fight flames. The ski area turned on its snow-making machines to save what it can. The resorts director told fire crews that although there is some damage to the ski area, it will be open for skiers come winter.
Meanwhile, the Red Cross is working to help people who have lost their homes to the fire. The organization has shelters set up in Ruidoso and Capitan and plan to remain open several weeks after final damage assessments come in.
"We want to make sure that people who have lost their homes have a safe, secure place to sleep, that they have clothing, that they have the food they need," said Red Cross spokesperson Cindy Adams. "Sometimes people don't get their prescription medicines out. We make sure those are replaced."
The Red Cross is accepting donations online at http://redcrossnewmexico.org/
Residents will not be allowed back into their homes to check on damage for at least three to four days. For them, fire officials have set up a fire information hotline at (575) 258-6900.
Stay with KOB Eyewitness News 4 and KOB.com for continued updates on the Little Bear fire.