By Natalie Morales
Nearly 100 firefighters battled through the night to contain a wildfire that broke out last month on Ruidoso’s Moon Mountain in New Mexico, about four hours away from Lubbock.
The fire, believed to be an arson, started at about 2:20 p.m. on March 28 and spread rapidly, gaining traction in a backyard with dead trees, according to the Ruidoso News. By 8 p.m., the fire had covered 175 acres and was only 30 percent contained, getting dangerously close to Ruidoso High School, the only public high school in town.
With homes exposed to high winds, many residents evacuated as they watched the fire edge closer.
And some were worried not only about their own lives.
Kat Vallo, the assistant manager of the Humane Society of Lincoln County located directly across the street from Moon Mountain, was not at the shelter when the fire began.
Living 30 minutes away, Vallo was on standby, waiting to hear whether evacuation would be needed. She was soon called in to help move the animals to safety.
“You know, I packed a bag in case I would have to stay in Ruidoso while the fire was going on, just in case we weren’t able to make it back home,” Vallo said. “We had a lot of smoke where we were. It was maybe a good two, three miles away.”
The Humane Society transported its animals to a resale store location on U.S. Highway 70, where they stayed overnight in safety. Some of the pets were also taken to temporary foster homes, Vallo said.
The resale store’s truck, normally reserved for large furniture and appliance deliveries, was used to move the shelter’s 25 dogs. Eleven cats were transported in a van recently donated by another facility in Colorado.
The shelter manager and kennel supervisor dedicated their night to the animals, staying at the store to make sure each animal was safe. Five members of the Humane Society staff, board members and volunteers helped in the emergency.
By dawn the next day, no more than a glow could be seen from the nearby Sudderth Drive, according to Ruidoso News. Fire crews from Ruidoso, Mescalero, Ruidoso Downs, all Lincoln County volunteer fire departments, the U.S. Forest Services, the New Mexico State Forestry Division and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management had answered the call to volunteer their help and time.
As the town banded in its recovery effort, the Humane Society set up a Gofundme to raise $2,500 for more kennels. It soon met its goal, with the help of 49 donations.
“We had a really good outcome,” Vallo said. “We had a lot of people donating money and kennels. That way, if this ever happens again, we will have hopefully enough kennels to transport our larger dogs.”
Ben and Lisa Morales and their son watched the fire blaze right behind their home. Pictures found on Facebook and Google. Click below to hear their story.