They were found Wednesday at a fire station in Ruidoso, New Mexico, state police said in a press release. Shortly afterwards, local police were called in for a missing couple.
“Ruidoso’s police department has received information about an elderly couple who tried to evacuate the fire in McBride, but were unknown to family members,” officials said in a press release.
The deaths are under investigation and the Medical Investigator’s Office is working to identify the victims, state police said.
The McBride fire, which began on Tuesday afternoon, rose to 5,381 acres and was 0% contained as of Wednesday night, according to the New Mexico Fire website.
The blaze destroyed or damaged more than 200 structures, local authorities said, and many Ruidoso residents were told to evacuate.
The death toll came after firefighters said they were preparing for increased firefighting on Wednesday as several forest fires continued to rage in the state.
Five fires – the peak of the hermit, the fires of McBride, Overflow, Big Hole and Nogal Canyon – have burned more than 13,000 acres of land in New Mexico, according to data from InciWeb.
In response, the state received subsidies to help from the federal fire department, which will provide resources for crews fighting forest fires, Governor Michel Lujan Grisham said in a statement Wednesday.
“I want to reassure the people of New Mexico that our local, state, federal and tribal agencies are working around the clock to ensure that evacuees have the support they need as these unprecedented spring forest fires tear our communities apart,” the governor said in a statement.
The evacuations are underway
The biggest fire, Hermit’s Peak, grew rapidly Tuesday, burning 6,276 acres on Wednesday afternoon with a 10 percent limit, according to an update posted Wednesday on the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Facebook page.
“Largely driven by strong winds of 50 to 60 miles per hour with gusts of up to 70 miles per hour, the fire spread to nearly six miles to the east and northeast,” officials said in the update.
The San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office issued evacuation orders on Tuesday and put several zones on alert, according to an SMCSO Facebook post.
Meanwhile, the overflow fire was 100% under control on Wednesday after charring 1,900 acres in the past week. The fire in Nogal Canyon, west of Captain, was about 350 acres after it broke out on Wednesday and was 4% contained, according to InciWeb. Residents of the area are subject to mandatory evacuation. Reducing wind speeds has helped firefighters work to contain the blaze, officials said. “Crews work in steep, rugged terrain, which fire can pass through extremely dry vegetation,” said an update to InciWeb. As for the Big Hole fire, which burned more than 900 acres on Wednesday, the limit has reached 40%, according to the New Mexico Fire Information website.
“Extremely dry weather and strong winds have left firefighting planes on the ground today, preventing water from falling over the area of the fire,” officials said Wednesday.
CNN’s Steve Almasi and Paradise Afshar contributed to this report.