The Future Press
Fires pose threats in NMTuesday, June 19, 2012 By Aidan Altik
High school student Desirae Stephenson has spent the last week scared and on edge, unsure if the Little Bear fire raging near Ruidoso would make its way to her home. “It keeps moving toward us, then moving away…” Stephenson said. “It’s not close to us at the moment, but it keeps coming back.” Stephenson was scheduled to attend New Mexico Press Association’s annual High School Journalism Summer Conference at the University of New Mexico June 10-13. “I wanted to stay (home) in case the fire hit my house; I needed to be here to support my family,” Stephenson said. The Little Bear wildfire is now 30 percent contained and firefighters work to keep it from the upper canyon because, if they don’t, it will have a straight line to Ruidoso and Stephenson’s home. “I’m sad for the people who have lost their homes and wish I could help. I’m scared that the fire is so close to me,” Stephenson said. The Little Bear fire is not the only fire that is affecting people as the Whitewater-Baldy wildfire takes its place as the largest fire in New Mexico history with 278,708 acres burned so far across New Mexico, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The 2011 Las Conchas fire was previously the largest in the state, with 156,593 acres burned. Even though the Whitewater-Baldy fire was the bigger of the two fires, the Las Conchas fire had about 1,300 personnel working to contain it while the Baldy has only 738. About 37 percent of the Whitewater-Baldy wildfire is contained (as of June 11), due to the efforts of the personnel. “We’re on the winding down stage of this fire,” said Dean McAlister, U.S. Forest Service Public Information Officer. The Whitewater-Baldy fire is contained 17 percent more than on Tuesday, June 5 according to U.S. Department of Agriculture forest service. Both the Whitewater-Baldy and Little Bear fires are being contained at this point in time but for both fires, there is an unpredictability surrounding it. “We are just staying prepared, having everything packed and ready to go, just in case,” Stephenson said.