After the McBride Fire, the noisy business is mixed up

Robert Duncan, owner of Upper Canyon Lodging, examines the cabin of his brother Chuck Duncan, who was badly damaged by a fallen pine tree on May 31 as the town of Ruidoso is slowly recovering from the April fire. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis / Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

The first in a series

RUIDOSO – Located at the top of McBride Drive in Ruidoso, the path of the last fire seems almost random. The bright houses with manicured lawns are next to a pile of charcoal debris, leaving only the chimneys.

Just like the houses overlooking Gavilan Canyon Road in the east of the town, where the fire broke out in April, businesses in Ruidos have faced a similar fate.

Some businesses lost everything in McBride Firen, burning nearly 6,200 acres, destroying more than 200 homes and killing two people. Others are moving forward as usual with the start of the summer season in a small mountain town near Roswell in southern New Mexico.

Eric Medina, his wife Alyssa and their three children, Oaklee, 4, Ashton, 9, and Ellanor, 2, of Plainview, Texas, cross Sudderth Drive as the town of Ruidoso slowly recovers after the April fire . (Adolphe Pierre-Louis / Albuquerque Journal)

On Sudderth Drive, one of the main shopping districts in Ruidos, families entered and left the shops, bags in hand, on the following Tuesday, Memorial Day.

Although trade and tourism activity is returning to the town after the April fire, Kendra King, executive director of the Ruidoso Midtown Association and owner of Cool Center Stuff at 102 Center Street, said this May was much slower than expected for many businesses. despite the removal of restrictions. and the fires are going out.

“When accommodation is reduced, when people cancel their reservations, when restaurants are slow, then the economy changes a little bit and that’s how it affects them,” he said.

King said Cool Stuff’s business on a side street on Sudderth Drive has been slower than expected, and he’s not alone.

“It was a total loss of revenue and on days when there was no electricity available for the first week, it was difficult to operate during that time,” King said. “So they were totally affected by the revenue.”

Kendra King, owner of 102 Center Street and executive director of the Ruidoso Midtown Association, talks about the town’s recovery after the April fire. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis / Albuquerque Journal)

Problem waves

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

First, there was the fire, which started on April 12th. No reason has been clarified as a result of the fire, driven by strong winds, lack of rain and high temperatures. However, a lawsuit has been filed after the fire started after a tree fell on a PNM power line. The newspaper filed a lawsuit on Thursday afternoon with the New Mexico State Forest Division over the cause of the fire, but received no response before it was published.

In the fire, King said, many businesses lost electricity for several days and were temporarily shut down, while the community had to relocate to homes that had lost their homes. The king himself had a friend who burned his friend’s house in the fire and stayed with him for a while.

But life and tourism were not ignited immediately after the fires ended, he said.

Businesses, especially in the accommodation and hospitality industry, received numerous calls from potential visitors calling to cancel reservations or see if the town was still on fire, King said.

“Several fires are burning in New Mexico, so in addition to putting that negative image on our people, the whole state seems to be on fire,” he said. “So we have tourists from Arizona and Texas who are canceling their trips. They’re thinking that New Mexico isn’t a good place to visit at the moment, so we immediately noticed that blow.”

McBride Fire is one of the most devastating fires in New Mexico this year, especially during the devastating season.

Statewide fires have grown to more than 660,000 acres. The Calf Canyon / Hermits Peak Fire in Santa Fe National Forest, now the largest fire in the state’s history, reached 340,000 acres and was 72% closed since Friday morning.

Forest closure

Extensive forest fires and lack of rainfall in several regions shut down national forests across the state on May 25th.

Although tourism has largely returned, King said national forest closures were still sidelining some tourists who were planning to visit Ruidoso for recreation in the Lincoln National Forest for recreation.

Noisy T-Shirt Co. and T-Shirt Outlet on Sudderth Drive is one of the stores that has seen a drop in sales since the fire, said manager Vicky Sedillo. He said April is generally a slow month, but the business did not turn up as expected in May.

Sedillo said he expected sales to rise compared to last May as the pandemic cuts were removed. Instead, the store made a quarter of its sales compared to May 2021.

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

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

Duncan said even though McBride’s business has grown after the fire, he knows tourists who want to go to “Little Texas” are likely to be affected by high gas, accommodation and food prices.

“The majority of my clients are in the mid-level economy,” Duncan said. “When you look at the news, they say, ‘Oh, the gas has gone up; new cars have gone up by 22%; eggs have gone up by 24%; accommodation has gone up by 30%,’ or whatever. I can’t get 30% of my guests because I would take it out of the mix. ”

Duncan said the media outcry left Ruidos out believing the town was still on fire. At one point, Duncan posted his son on the company’s Facebook page – which has nearly 50,000 followers – to the Upper Canyon Lodging Co. that it was still running.

And one by one, the guests walked back, calling Duncan’s business to make sure they were actually open.

“Ruidoso has had a great time. We lost two lives and 200 properties. The fires are out and it’s time to heal, ”Duncan said. “The people need you to come back.”

Although the fire caused less traffic for some businesses, others, especially those located on Gavilan Canyon Road, suffered a complete loss.

The Canyon Hideaway was one of the businesses burned in the fires.

The business spa and seven motorhomes were lost as a result of the fire, owner Robbie Hall said, leaving the company closed until Hall and his family help him run the park until he is able to rebuild.

One mile from the road, Ruidoso Septic Services lost everything. A few weeks after the fire broke out, 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 scream about it and sit back and do nothing, or get up (run away) and get back to work and get the most out of what’s left,” Hall said.

Some businesses are booming

Some businesses completely escaped the negative effects of the fire.

At Parts Unknown, an outdoor store on Sudderth Drive, the fire caused a small wave of business, with firefighters needing last-minute equipment such as boots and wool socks.

Travis Romero, the manager of Parts Unknown, discusses on June 1, 2022 how the outerwear store is reviving after the April McBride Fire. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis / Albuquerque Journal)

As many of the shops on Ruidoso’s list were empty due to a power outage, store manager Travis Romero spent time outside his store and helping firefighters and others fight the fire.

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

He received “a couple dozen” calls after his number was published. “They were happier with someone local … than buying online …,” he said.

Parts Unknown, formerly Brunellena, has long carried firefighters’ boots in the event of a fire, even though the boots must have been an expensive investment in advance, Romero said. Boots sell for between $ 300 and $ 600 per pair.

Romero said he sold about 100 woolen socks to firefighters. Some out-of-state firefighters also bought new clothing at his store.

Romero said business was relatively slow in early May, but he thinks the month is likely to end with traffic similar to previous years.

Like Parts Unknown, The Village Buttery came out of the fire pretty unscathed. Manager Jenna Preciado said the biggest loss was having to throw away a lot of food after the restaurant lost power for several days.

But since it reopened, Preciado said traffic is normal.

Whether the businesses have maintained a similar level of traffic or seen a decline, they all agree on one thing: they want tourists to return to Ruidos.

“We’re here and we welcome all visitors,” King said. “The Ruidoso community wants to see its visitors continue to enjoy the beautiful mountain villages.”

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