RUIDOSO, N.M. — As the McBride Fire continues to scorch more than 6,000 acres in the Ruidoso mountains, Karen Roach and her family are scavenging through the ashes of their home – but there is not much to find.
“We lost everything,” she said. “We were able to find a few momentos… you know, little special things that we’re going to clean up and make use of.”
The Roaches are just some of the more than 200 families that the wildfire has left homeless in less than a week. But as the fire is now shrinking, residents say the spirt of community is growing stronger.
Karen runs a specialty-order bakery called Queen of Confections and Parties in Ruidoso, and the first community member to step up and help her was the owner of a competing bakery. Rollin’ in the Dough quickly sold out of their Easter cookies this weekend, telling customers the profits will go directly towards the Roach recovery effort.
Karen said the outpouring of support was extraordinary given how little she and the owner, Lacey, knew each other.
“I met her one time at an event in passing. I have never formally met her or hugged her,” she said. She just chose to be kind out of her heart… [it was a] huge surprise, because in the meantime she was waiting to hear if her house was safe. So from the bottom of my heart I cannot thank her enough.”
But Lacey said Karen has had a more profound impact on her than she may realize. To her, this small act of kindness was simply a way to pay forward her past graciousness.
“Karen has been such an inspiration to me since I met her. When I first moved here, I didn’t know very many people. She could have been upset at me for coming in and being a competitor to her business, but instead she welcomed me with open arms, offering me help, equipment, even sending me business when she could,” Lacey said. “She helped my family in a time of crisis without being asked. I have seen her outpouring of love and kindness in this community and she deserves to receive some back.”
Julie Palmer is another stranger to Karen, but she says Karen has extended her the same kindness. Julie sees her GoFundMe for the family as he own way of paying it back – even though she only knows Karen through her husband, who have not seen each other in nearly 30 years.
“We went through a really tough time at the end of last year. My husband came down with COVID and had to go be airlifted to San Antonio, and was in the ICU,” Palmer said. “I had gotten a really sweet message from Karen… she said, ‘if you need anything, we are here for you, we are not close, but that doesn’t matter.’ And that just really touched my heart.”
Together the two efforts have raised about $600, and they plan to continue their efforts to find the Roach family stable housing on their road to recovery.
Palmer has founded a new community to connect victims of the wildfire, called McBride Fire Victims on Facebook.
Rollin’ in Dough plans to host another fundraiser to gather $3,000. Lacey says the Roach family needs a rental house that is accessible for their daughter, who is handicapped. They are still accepting direct donations to the Roach family here.
“I have seen the community come together in so many ways; from offering their homes, their campers, to offering transport and boarding for livestock and pets,” Lacey said. “I have seen equipment companies offering to haul water for free, construction companies offer free cleanup, phone companies giving out free phones, and neighbors bringing food and supplies for those that were displaced. I feel so lucky to be a part of such a beautiful, helpful, welcoming community.”
And when the Roach family does rebuild, it will still be in Ruidoso. Because while they may have lost their house, it has never felt more like home.
“The community support has been amazing. Not just for myself, but for my neighbors,” Roach said. “I have heard just true stories of local heroes. They don’t even know. The littlest things they are doing are making the biggest impact on us.”