Scott Able Fire
Day 9 – May 19, 2000

May 19, 2000 — Cloudcroft.Com Special Report

9:00 am MDT — The Scott Able Fire is now 100% contained. Mop-up has started on all divisions, with priority on the wind-exposed green islands. All evacuations have been lifted and the New Mexico National Guard has been demobilized. We will post a synopsis of the Scott Able Fire this afternoon plus information on the town hall meeting held in Cloudcroft last night.

The weather forecast for today calls for southwest winds 10-15 mph, 60-70 degrees temperature, and 15-25% relative humidity.

The Ruidoso News has a report on the 14 volunteer fire fighters who walked out of a meeting with Ruidoso administrators yesterday.

6:00 pm MDT — The Forest Service has instituted closures on some areas of the Lincoln National Forest starting May 24, 2000. The Villages of Cloudcroft and Ruidoso will still be fully accessible to visitors.


7:00 pm MDT — The Scott Able Fire has been 100% contained, with mopping-up operations continuing. All evacuees have been allowed back into their properties. The National Guard has been immobilized. The fire began on May 11th at about 3:30 pm when a high power line blew down in high winds near Scott Able 4-H Camp. Because of those winds, it spread incredibly fast that first day. Forest Officials did not attempt to extinguish flames the first day, concentrating mainly on evacuating those people in the most immediate danger. Most of the homes lost in the blaze (64) were destroyed in the first hours of the fire. The perimeter established around the fire on the 2nd day held fast throughout the life of the fire, due mainly to the tenacious work of fire fighters using heavy equipment all the way down to picks and shovels. High winds kept slurry planes on the ground for much of the life of the fire.

High winds and low humidity tormented fire fighters every day of the fire, finally subsiding on Thursday the 19th to allow for a solid containment.

On May 15th, day 5 of the fire, the complexion of the situation changed completely when two men were killed in a spotter plane crash near the Alamogordo airport. Sam Tobias of Ruidoso and Leo Kopoman of Columbia, California died in the crash, which is still under investigation. Of the three major fires in New Mexico during this period (the Cree Fire near Ruidoso, the Los Alamos Fire, and the Scott Able Fire), these were the only two deaths associated with the blazes.

Tuesday the 16th was considered a turnaround day for the Scott Able Fire. Winds would not go away, and fire fighters were faced with the chore of not only containing the blaze within its perimeters, but accomplishing that task without the help of aerial slurry attacks. By the end of the day, as winds began to subside, man had won out over Mother Nature and the lines had been held.

May 17th was another windy day, but fire fighters had been encouraged by their successes under adverse conditions in days past and were able to maintain successful fire lines during another “Red Flag” day. They actually increased the amount of containment of the fire to 65%.

Thursday the 18th, a week since the fire had begun, dawned relatively calm and fire fighters took advantage of better weather conditions. They attacked the last vestiges of the fire and brought it to 100% containment.

Total losses — Two human lives (still no estimate available on wildlife casualties which will be hard to assess), 16,500 acres burned, 64 homes lost, 16 outbuildings, one bus, one boat, and 11 motorized vehicles.

Damage to utilities in the fire-stricken area has yet to be totaled but several utilities were compromised by the fire (most power has been reestablished to the burn area).

The National Forest Service reminds visitors and residents that the conditions causing the Scott Able Fire still exist. Another fire of similar volume is possible. Until moisture is introduced to the area, there is still the possibility of serious fire.

The Town Hall meeting in Cloudcroft Thursday night served to shed little new light on the problem of overgrown forest and serious fire conditions. The meeting had actually been scheduled before the Scott Able Fire began. Forest Officials admit to the problem, but insist there is a need for public help in influencing government officials to allow controlled cleanup of overgrown forest and underbrush and the cleanup of private lands outside the auspices of the National Forest.

Our thanks to each and every Cloudcroft.Com visitor that supported us and contributed to our efforts to cover this fire.

Day 8 Coverage