At least one dead due to New Mexico wildfires, thousands evacuated

By Kanishka Singh

(Reuters) - At least one person died due to the wildfires in New Mexico which have also led to the evacuation of thousands of people and damaged hundreds of structures, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham's office said on Wednesday.

"We don't have any additional details," a spokesperson of the governor's office told media. "Only one fatality as a result of the fire."

As of late Tuesday, about 1,400 homes and other structures had been destroyed. The entire New Mexico village of Ruidoso, population 7,000, was evacuated, officials added.

At least two individuals were injured in the wildfires, the governor told reporters on Tuesday.

The governor also declared a state of emergency in the Lincoln County and the Mescalero Apache Reservation due to the two wildfires - South Fork Fire and Salt Fire.

The South Fork fire is estimated at 15,276 acres (61.82 square kilometers) and is zero percent contained while the Salt Fire has consumed at least 5,557 acres, according to an update from the governor's office.

"It was really scary with the ashes coming down. Maybe it was like snow falling down, it was pretty bad. It was scary," said Karen Sandoval, an evacuee from Ruidoso told KOB 4 media station.

Some rain was expected going forward this week in New Mexico.

Separately, firefighters in California also battled high temperatures, low humidity and strong winds as they sought to contain a wildfire that started Saturday northwest of Los Angeles and has burned at least 12,000 acres.

U.S. cities have been breaking decades-old temperature records this week as a heatwave stretched from central to eastern portions of the country, the National Weather Service says, in what officials are warning could become a deadly weather event.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; Editing by Marguerita Choy)