After McBride Fire, Ruidoso’s business is mixed

Robert Duncan, owner of Upper Canyon Lodging, is inspecting his brother Chuck Duncan’s hut after a fallen pine tree caused severe damage on May 31, while the town of Ruidoso is slowly recovering from the April fire. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis / Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

First in the series

RUIDOSO – Standing on top of McBride Drive in Ruidoso, the path of the recent forest fire seems almost random. Brilliant houses with maintained lawns are located right next to piles of charred rubble, leaving only chimneys.

Just like the houses overlooking Gavilan Canyon Road on the east side of the village, where a forest fire broke out in April, businesses in Ruidoso were met with such a scattered fate.

Some companies lost everything in the McBride fire, which burned nearly 6,200 acres, destroyed more than 200 homes and left two dead. Others continue as usual with the start of the summer season in the small mountain village near Roswell in southern New Mexico.

Eric Medina, his wife Alice and their three children, Oakley, 4, Ashton, 9, and Elaner, 2, of Plainview, Texas, cross South Drive as the city of Ruidoso slowly recovers from the April fire. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis / Albuquerque Journal)

On Sudderth Drive, one of Ruidoso’s main shopping districts, families wandered to and from stores with handbags on Tuesday after Remembrance Day.

Although trade and tourism returned to the village after the April fire, Kendra King, CEO of the Ruidoso Midtown Association and owner of Cool Stuff on 102 Center Street, said this May was much slower than expected for many companies. , although pandemic restrictions have been lifted and fires are being put out.

“When accommodation is declining, when people cancel reservations, when restaurants are slow, then the economy is slightly changed and affected in this way,” she said.

King said the Cool Stuff business, located on a side street on Sudderth Drive, is slower than expected – and she is not alone.

“There was an absolute loss of revenue, and this first week, when electricity was not available for days, it was difficult to work during that time,” King said. “So, absolutely the revenue was affected.”

Kendra King, owner of 102 Center Street and executive director of the Ruidoso Midtown Association, is discussing rebuilding the city after the April fire. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis / Albuquerque Journal)

Waves of trouble

King said he believes part of the slowdown in business is due to several successive waves of disasters that have hit Ruidoso.

The first was the forest fire, which began on April 12. The cause of the fire, which is fueled by strong winds, lack of precipitation and high temperatures, has not been reported. However, a lawsuit has been filed alleging that the fire started after a falling tree removed a PNM power line. The newspaper applied for entries Thursday afternoon at the New Mexico Forestry Department for the cause of the fire, but received no response before publication.

During the fire, King said, many businesses lost electricity for several days and were temporarily shut down while the community had to focus on homes that had lost their homes. King herself had a boyfriend who stayed with her for a while after her friend’s house burned down in the fire.

But life and tourism did not rise immediately after the fires ended, she said.

Businesses, especially those in the accommodation and hospitality sector, were greeted with a flood of calls from prospective visitors, who either canceled reservations or called to see if the city was still burning, King said.

“There are a lot of fires burning around New Mexico, so in addition to our city having negative images of what’s happening, it looks like the whole state is on fire,” she said. “So we have tourists from Arizona and Texas who cancel their trips. They don’t think New Mexico is a good place to visit right now, so we noticed it happened right away. “

The McBride fire is just one of several wildfires to break out in New Mexico this year during a particularly devastating forest fire season.

Fires in the state have risen to more than 660,000 acres. The fire in Calf Canyon / Peak Hermits in the Santa Fe National Forest, now the largest fire in the state’s history, has risen to 340,000 acres and was 72% under control by Friday morning.

Closing the forest

Widespread forest fires and lack of rainfall in many regions led to the closure of national forests across the country on May 25th.

Although tourism has largely returned, King said the closure of the national forests still deters some tourists planning to visit Ruidoso for a holiday at the nearby Lincoln National Forest.

Ruidoso T-Shirt Co. and Sudderth Drive’s T-Shirt Outlet is one of the stores with declining sales after the fire, according to manager Vicky Sedilo. She said April was generally a slow month, but business did not resume in May as expected.

Sedilo said she expected sales to increase from last May as pandemic restrictions were lifted. Instead, the store made about a quarter of sales compared to May 2021.

“Right now, because the forest is also closed, I don’t think we get a lot of visitors because of that,” she said. “We usually get people who want to come in and camp and stuff like that.”

Robert Duncan, owner of Upper Canyon Lodging Co., said high gas prices and economic problems could dissuade some of his customers from booking a room. Duncan’s business offers more than 100 accommodation options, most of which are cabins.

Duncan said that although the business started after the McBride fire, he knows that tourists who want to make their way to Little Texas are likely to be affected by higher gasoline, accommodation and food prices.

“Most of my clients are in this middle-class economy,” Duncan said. “When you look at the news, they say, ‘Oh, petrol is up that amount; new cars grew by 22%; eggs increase by 24%; the accommodation increases by 30% or whatever. I can’t get up by 30% because (I would) get most of my guests out of the mix. “

Duncan said he believed media coverage led many outside Ruidoso to believe the city was still burning. At one point, Duncan made his son post on the company’s Facebook page – which boasts nearly 50,000 followers – that Upper Canyon Lodging Co. it still works.

And one by one, the guests come back – they call Duncan’s business to make sure they’re actually open.

“Ruidoso went through a terrible time. We lost two lives and 200 properties. “The fires have already gone out and it’s time to heal,” Duncan said. “The village needs you to return.”

While forest fires have led to less traffic for some businesses, others, especially those located on Gavilan Canyon Road, have suffered a complete loss.

Canyon Hideaway was among the businesses that burned in the wildfire.

The business bathroom and seven RVs were lost in the fire, said owner Robbie Hall, leaving the company closed until Hall and his family, who help him manage the park, were able to restore the park.

Just a mile down the road, Ruidoso Septic Services lost everything. Weeks after the fire passed, the company’s yard was littered with melted trucks and equipment, and the office building collapsed as if it had been hit by a bomb.

“You can either whine about it, sit back and do nothing, or you can get up (swear) and go back to work and get the best out of what’s left of you,” Hall said.

Some businesses are thriving

Some companies have completely escaped the negative effects of the fire.

In Parts Unknown, an open-air retailer on Sudderth Drive, the fire brought a small wave of business – namely firefighters who need such equipment at the last minute as boots and wool socks.

Travis Romero, manager of Parts Unknown, discussed on June 1, 2022, how the outdoor clothing store was recovering from the April McBride fire. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis / Albuquerque Journal)

When many of the shops on Ruidoso Street were empty due to power outages, store manager Travis Romero spent time in and out of his store, equipping firefighters and others to help fight the fire.

“I posted my number on the front door and said, ‘Hey, if you’re a firefighter and you need something urgent, just call me,'” Romero said.

He received “two dozen” calls after publishing his number. “They were just happy to have a local… instead of… buy online,” he said.

Parts Unknown, before Brunell’s, has long worn firefighting boots in the event of a wildfire, although the boots may require an expensive pre-investment, Romero said. The boots retail for between $ 300 and $ 600 per pair.

Romero said he sold about 100 pairs of wool socks to firefighters. Some firefighters outside the state also bought new clothes at his store.

Romero said the business was quite slow in early May, but said he probably ended the month with traffic similar to previous years.

Like Parts Unknown, The Village Buttery escaped the fire relatively unscathed. Manager Jenna Presiado said the biggest loss was throwing away a lot of food after the restaurant lost electricity for several days.

But after reopening, Preciado said the traffic was the same as usual.

Whether the business has maintained a similar level of traffic or declined, everyone agrees on one thing: they want tourists to return to Ruidoso.

“We are here to welcome all visitors,” King said. “The Ruidoso community wants to see its visitors continue to come and enjoy the beautiful mountain town.”

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