Not long after the first firefighting crews were called out to the
scene of the White Fire that broke out near Gavilan Canyon on Sunday
afternoon, Pastor Alan Stoddard and some of his fellow members of the
First Baptist Church of Ruidoso were welcoming those whose residences
were close to the path of the blaze and in need of a place to get away
for a while and possibly spend the night.
“We wanted to provide people with food and a place to stay warm,” said
Stoddard. “We were just looking to help out in any way that we could.”
Volunteers at Gateway Church of Christ, likewise, spent much of that
afternoon setting up tables with food and drinks, preparing to provide
displaced individuals with temporary shelter and a warm meal.
These are a couple of examples of how members of the Ruidoso and
Ruidoso Downs communities have offered their support during this most
recent calamity. And by no means was the outpouring limited to only
First Baptist Church and Gateway, both of which were designated by
Lincoln County as relief shelters.
The Angus Church of the Nazarene, for instance, provided shelter,
meals and security for the staff and residents of The Nest, a domestic
violence shelter in Ruidoso.
Hotels such as Comfort Inn and Hotel Ruidoso offered discounted room rates, and Whispering Pines chipped in
with complementary cabin stays. The Lodge at Sierra Blanca offered free rooms Sunday night for fire evacuees.
Restaurants like Circle J Bar-B-Que
and Robel Tacos brought food and drinks to firefighters and other
personnel. And ordinary people from across the area have offered their
“We’ve had an abundance of individuals from the community asking what
they could do to help,” said Margo Whitt, a public information officer
for the Type II incident management team. “There’s no way I could
encompass a list because there have been just too many calls.”
The gymnasium inside the First Baptist campus, enough room to
accommodate 40 people, was transformed into a makeshift shelter with
cots and food. Nine people stayed overnight on Sunday, and though the
church was also prepared to house people the following night, Stoddard
said that no one stayed overnight on Monday.
Don Gibson, a service coordinator at Gateway, estimated that between
60 and 70 people showed up at his church by Sunday evening. The church
provided water, snacks and pizza.
“We had several people calling and asking if they could help
volunteer,” he said. “It was a little overwhelming.”
The hospitality was also extended to animals in area.
The Humane Society of Lincoln County office, located on Gavilan Canyon
Road, was told to evacuate their premises on Sunday afternoon. The
animals were transported to Bonita Park, a camping and conference
center located near the bottom of Angus Hill. Once there, the animals
were given food and water, and an RV was brought in to put up the
staff for the night.
Sharon Yocum, guest services director at Bonita Park, said that
between 10 and 20 people volunteered to help with the animals. By
Monday morning the animals returned to their kennels at the humane
“(Bonita Park) was extremely accommodating and very helpful toward
us,” said Trish Watson, an assistant manager with the Humane Society
of Lincoln County.
Coleen Widell, executive director for The Nest, the domestic violence
shelter, said she and other from her organization reached out to
Pastor Rick Hutchinson of the Angus Church of the Nazarene last week
to talk about using the church’s facilities as an evacuation site in
the invent of a disaster. Residents and staff were uprooted to the
church’s gymnasium on Sunday night.
“With the conditions the way they have been, with the dry winter and
windy spring, we wanted to implement a route to take to an off-site
location in case a fire did break out,” said Widell. “Pastor Rick and
the others at Angus have been great with helping us out and we really
appreciate what they have done for us.”