Gov. Susana Martinez was on hand Friday afternoon in Hondo when the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners declared the county a disaster area as the result of the nearly 80,000 acres consumed in the Donaldson Complex Fire.
The declaration opens the doors for receiving state grants that could cover up to 75 percent of the cost of fighting the lightning-sparked blaze that has been burning since Tuesday morning and is only considered 10 percent contained.
Control of the firefighting effort was assumed by New Mexico Type II Incident Commander John Pierson Friday morning, representing a step up on commitment by the state in terms of both manpower but resources as well.
Heavy overcast Friday afternoon resulted in heavy levels of smoke infiltrating into Ruidoso Downs and Ruidoso, reportedly sparking an onslaught of calls to emergency services, but also welcomed rain into the area.
As other fires throughout the state are coming under control, more assets are being allocated to the Donaldson Fire, including an air attack aircraft, a lead aircraft, four SEAT planes, four heavy tankers, a C-130 and a Type 2 and Type 3 helicopters.
More than 350 firefighters are battling the blaze on the ground, assisted by 19 engines, five dozers and four water tenders.
Higher humidity levels were expected to aid firefighters’ efforts to keep the fire east of FR 443, west of Picacho Road, south of U.S. Hwy 70 and north of Pine Tree Canyon.
The disaster declarations states that 80 structures are now considered threatened by the fire, which has already claimed six outbuildings and one home.
County Manager Tom Stewart said the declaration allows the county to move forward with a Fire Management Assistant Grant – FMAG – with FEMA, which Stewart said has already been approved.
The declaration further allows “the exercising of emergency powers and the expenditure of available resources,” as well as “requesting assistance and relief programs and funds available from the state of New Mexico.”