Firefighters spent more than four hours Tuesday battling a blaze that consumed more than 7,000 acres of grassland south of Portales, according to officials.
A towering column of smoke to the south was noticeable to residents in downtown Portales late in the morning.
Acting Portales Fire Lt. Steven Cain said firefighters and road crews cut a break around the fire and were successful in containing it around 2:30 p.m.
“It was one of the bigger fires that we’ve had,” he said.
Cain said the fire was comparable in size to the fire that jumped U.S. 70 between Clovis and Portales this fall, but not nearly as devastating as the 2005 Floyd fire.
The majority of the land was Conservation Reserve Program land between N.M. 206 and N.M. 88, he said. Livestock were in the burned areas, but no injuries or deaths were reported, he said.
One home was saved from the fire, but likely suffered smoke damage, he said.
According to Dora Fire Chief Paul Luscombe, the Arch Fire Department provided structure protection at that residence, owned by David Flen, and he credited them with saving the home.
Firefighters from Portales, Dora, Arch, Causey, Floyd, Elida, Clovis, Muleshoe and Milnesand responded. Trucks from Western Dairy Transport brought water to the location, Roosevelt County road crews came in to blade the area and Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Deputies provided traffic control. Cain estimated 37 pieces of equipment were employed in the effort.
Cain said the cause of the fire is being investigated. The fire was first reported just after 10 a.m. in the area between Roosevelt Roads 12 and 13 near Roosevelt Road O. A fire line was graded in front of the fire in the vicinity of South Roosevelt Road 10 and Roosevelt Road K, where it was stopped approximately a half-mile from the Arch Highway (N.M. 88). Luscombe said the head of the fire grew to more than three miles wide before it finished its run.
“The mutual aid agreements between the departments is key to even stopping something like this at all,” Luscombe said. “There’s not any single one of us who can put this kind of fire out on our own. We’re going to see more of these,” he said noting the dry conditions and available fuel.
Clovis Fire Chief Ray Westerman said high winds and dry conditions make grass fires more volatile and difficult to fight.
“The wind is certainly a contributing factor to the spread of the fire,” he said.
“The growth that we’ve had with last year’s rain is dry now, and we haven’t had the rain or snow this year,” Westerman said. “It all makes for a bad combination when it comes to grass fires.”