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Fast-moving wildfire devours 1,400 New Mexico structures

The South Fork fire was discovered burning on Mescalero Tribal land at 9 a.m. Monday. It has since grown to more than 15,00 acres. Photo courtesy of New Mexico state Rep. Harlan Vincent/Facebook
The South Fork fire was discovered burning on Mescalero Tribal land at 9 a.m. Monday. It has since grown to more than 15,00 acres. Photo courtesy of New Mexico state Rep. Harlan Vincent/Facebook

June 19 (UPI) -- A fast-moving wildfire has destroyed more than 1,400 structures in New Mexico, prompting thousands of people to evacuate, officials said.

The South Fork fire has been racing through Mescalero Tribal land, U.S. Forest Service land and within the areas surrounding Ruidoso, a village located about 200 miles south of Albuquerque.

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According to an update from New Mexico Forestry Division, the fire was discovered at 9 a.m. Monday and since has grown to 15,276 acres in central New Mexico by Tuesday night.

Some 1,400 structures that laid in its path have been devoured as the flames have been fanned by intense heat, though Tuesday may provide some relief in the form of scattered showers and thunderstorms in the afternoon.

Officials, however, warn that more structures are threatened.

The village of Ruidoso is under a mandatory evacuation order, and an estimated 8,000 people have fled the area, the division said.

"Please stay out of the area, and do not attempt to get back into the village," a post on the Village of Ruidoso Facebook page read. "There are no open roads into Ruidoso and the New Mexico State Police will have roadblocks at all entry points and they will not allow you to pass."

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The Lincoln County Medical Center said online that it has evacuated and was no longer providing services.

The section of U.S. Route 70 that runs through the area has been closed because of the blaze, which is 0% contained.

A second nearby fire -- the Salt Fire -- has eaten more than 5,550 acres.

In response to the two blazes, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham declared a state of emergency for Lincoln County and the Mescalero Apache Reservation, with her office stating, "the magnitude of the fires is beyond local control and requires immediate state intervention to protect public health, safety and welfare."

"The horrific South Fork Fire and Salt Fire have ravaged our lands and property, and forced thousands to flee their homes," the Democrat governor said in a statement.

"We are deploying every available resource to control these wildfires, and to provide support to the Village of Ruidoso, the Mescalero Reservation and surround areas."

The declaration makes available additional state funds and resources to manage the crisis.

The cause of both fires remains under investigation.

World Central Kitchen said in a statement that its Relief Team was on its way to the region to assess food and water needs caused by the blazes

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