Not until April 12 were firefighters able to contain the 1,254-acre Turkey Well Fire on the south-central New Mexico reservation. With some help from a spring snowfall and low temperatures, the firefighters were able to dig a line – some eight miles long – around the fire, which appears to have been man-caused. It started April 8 in grass and ponderosa pine and moved into pinon and juniper trees, burning in steep, rocky terrain. Rehabilitation work has already started. Crews are building water bars along fire lines to prevent erosion from runoff. Travel through the reservation was restricted with no stopping or parking along U.S. 70 and N.M. 244. Anyone violating the closure order could be fined, the tribe warned.
Southern New Mexico law enforcement officials planned to revive an arson task force to investigate a recent rash of fires in the Lincoln National Forest. There have been two suspicious fires set in Ruidoso since early April and a series of fires on tribal land. The informal group was established following the Cree and Warrior fires last year. The Warrior fire in May was started by “an incendiary device” in Gavilan Canyon on Ruidoso’s east side. It burned 12 dry acres before being snuffed with slurry dropped from a single-engine plane. There have been no arrests. Cree burned 8,650 acres east of Ruidoso. A 21-year-old Ruidoso man and three juveniles were arrested for their involvement in starting the fire. A 17-year-old boy eventually was charged with negligent arson for accidentally staring the fire when he tossed a burning branch used to light a cave the group was exploring in Gavilan Canyon.