Wind sparks grass fire

By Mike Linn

A squall of wind knocked the roof off a barn and into an electric power line near Floyd on Thursday afternoon, sparking a fierce fire in a wheat field that quickly spread over 250 acres of land.
Nobody was injured in the fire, and monetary damages to crop land was slim if any, as much of the land was designated to the Conservation Reserve Program, according to Battalion Chief Darwin Chenault of the Portales Fire Department.
The fire was 1.5 miles long and .25 miles wide, encompassing several properties and battling firefighters for almost three hours, Chenault said.
Had it not been for the dry weather and strong winds — with 48 mph gusts according to the National Weather Service — Chenault said the fire may not have spread at all.
“The wind was the major factor in making it spread; without the wind we wouldn’t have a problem,” Chenault said. “The wheat field should be green right now, really and truly. But because of the dry weather the wheat is dead on it, and on a wet year that fire wouldn’t go anywhere because that wheat would still be green.”
Fortunately, Chenault said, the fire department was able to prevent the fire from spreading near any structures and homes in the area.
“We were very lucky; there were about 20 structures that had the potential of catching on fire and none of them caught on fire,” Chenault said. “Our first priority was to protect all the structures and that’s what we did, and finally when we got enough units on the scene we attacked the grass fire.”
In Curry County, the gusting winds ripped part of the roof off Sacred Heart Catholic Church and onto the adjoining parish school.
“We had a lot of fun with the roof today,” said Pastoral Associate Greg Smithisler. “Apparently the wind grabbed it and just ripped it up.”
Smithisler said the church called its insurance company but no damage estimate is yet available.
Neither police dispatchers in Curry County nor the National Weather Service in Albuquerque received reports of wind damage in Curry County.
“As far as I know there have not even been thunderstorms, just high wind,” said National Weather Service forecaster Mark Fettig. “Most of the thunderstorms developed north of Clovis but a few to the east in the (Texas) Panhandle.”
Missing the thunderstorms means Clovis missed getting any rain. Fettig said Clovis has received 0.85 inch of rainfall since the beginning of the year. The last measurable precipitation was on April 23 when Clovis received .06 inch of rain.
Fettig said the two local airports reported wind gusts around 50 miles per hour. The highest wind gust at Clovis Municipal Airport was 54 mph and Cannon Air Force Base reported a 48 mph gust.
Freedom Newspaper writer Darrell Todd Maurina contributed to this report.