(Reuters) -A wind-driven wildfire burned dozens of homes in Ruidoso, New Mexico on Tuesday and triggered evacuations of schools and neighborhoods in the mountain resort town.
As of 7 p.m. local time (0100 GMT), the fire had burned 150 houses and structures as winds gusting at up to 90 miles per hour (144 kilometres per hour) propelled flames through forested canyons filled with homes, according to the Lincoln National Forest and local officials.
Video footage showed ridge-top homes ablaze northeast of the town of around 8,000 people that is perched in the Sierra Blanca mountains some 134 miles southeast of Albuquerque.
“The fire is being driven by these really intense winds,” said Lincoln National Forest spokeswoman Laura Rabon, adding that there was zero containment of the blaze.
New Mexico and West Texas have seen an early start to fire seasons as blazes quickly spread through grassland and forests suffering from severe to extreme drought.
As smoke cleared in Ruidoso, firefighters revised down the area burned to 3,000 acres from a previously reported 15,000 acres, Rabon said.
“Many have lost homes. But we are all safe as far as I know,” tweeted Layne Holland, who said she spent her afternoon evacuating students from Ruidoso’s high school and middle school.
The blaze, known as the McBride Fire, was one of around half a dozen wildfires burning in New Mexico and West Texas.
A blaze south of Albuquerque destroyed 19 structures, including one home.
(Reporting by Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Editing by Leslie Adler and Kenneth Maxwell)