Firefighters fear nasty fire season

By Casey Peacock: PNT Staff Writer

A fire that began on the north end of the Melrose Bombing Range on Wednesday had area firefighters concerned for a while that a fire disaster similar to the 35,000 acre fire that roared through the community of Floyd last December could be on their hands.

Wednesday’s fire was caused by an electrical spark, said Leland Terry, Floyd Fire Department Chief. According to Terry, Paul Grider, a rancher and Roosevelt County commissioner was flipping a switch to turn on a well when the fire started. The fire started at approximately 10:30 a.m. Wednesday and consumed only five acres due to the quick thinking of Grider and the response of units from Floyd, Melrose and Cannon Air Force Base, said Terry.

The quick action of using a tractor and disk to help stop the fire prevented a similar disaster, said Terry. Units were on the scene for four hours. A flare up occurred around 4:30 p.m. and was quickly put out by a team from CAFB, said Terry.

“He showed very good thinking by getting the disk and tractor. If he hadn’t got on it, it would have been worse,” said Terry.

Fires that are quickly out of control are becoming commonplace in the area, say area fire department officials. Dry weather, drought conditions and late rain are producing conditions that have the potential for another high fire season.

“It’s terrible. Fuel loads are up,” said Dora Fire Chief Paul Luscombe. “I think we have the potential this year for a worse fire season.”

Dora has already seen the fire season start up in the area. A small fire occurred on Tuesday. Contained quickly, the fire burned through about one acre of short pasture grass, said Luscombe.

Portales Fire Chief Raul Muniz, and Terry also concurred that the season could be worse than last year.

“There is no predicting the weather or Mother Nature,” said Muniz. “We always prepare for the worst. We are definitely preparing for the season.”

Wednesday proved to be a look into what this season may be bringing to the area. High winds helped to fuel a grass fire that burned 40 acres on N.M. 467, said Muniz. Units from his department responded and had the fire out and under control in a little over an hour, said Muniz.

Since conditions are ripe for grass fires in the area, all the fire departments say they’re working together to respond more quickly to a scene.

Mutual aid agreements have been established between the fire departments, said Terry. In the event of a fire, neighboring units will be called out to assist before the situation can get out of control, he said.

“Mutual aid is so strong, that’s what makes this county good,” said Luscombe.