Fire guts Big Valley Ford

By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer

In the second major structure fire in Portales in a week, the roof of Big Valley Ford’s repair shop burned Friday evening.

The blaze forced the evacuation of the Town and Country convenience
store next door, but no one was injured and no vehicles were damaged,
according to officials.

Portales Police Capt. Lonnie Berry said there was no evidence of
arson or any connection to the blaze that destroyed Dollar General and
a Trader Horn’s True Value Hardware warehouse at last Friday.

“There’s no way they’re connected,” he said.

Berry said dispatch received the fire report at 6:15 p.m., and
firefighters had the blaze under control by about 8 p.m. The fire
appeared to have started in the attic area of the repair shop, Berry
said, but he didn’t know the cause.

As of about 8:45 p.m. Friday, Berry said he hadn’t been inside the
building, but it looked like firefighters contained the blaze to the
shop.

Police secured the scene until the state fire marshal could inspect it Saturday.

“We don’t know anything,” Big Valley owner Alva Carter Jr. said Friday night.

Authorities wouldn’t allow Carter into the building, and he had no
damage estimate. Carter said he would call his insurance company when
the business opened Monday morning. At that time, he also planned to
“get back to selling cars.”

Portales, Dora, Arch and Clovis fire departments helped battle the
blaze, and Portales police stopped traffic on U.S. 70 and several
smaller roads in the area. Roads were reopened shortly after the fire
was contained.

During the fire, about 30 Big Valley employees hurried to move
vehicles from the parking lot directly in front of the building to
prevent damage to the cars and give fire trucks more room. They set off
panic alarms to determine which car went with which set of keys and
sometimes pulled vehicles over the curb to move them across the street
or to the adjacent lot.

The Town and Country convenience store was evacuated from about 6:15
p.m. until about 8 p.m., said employee Andres Carbajal. He said he
wasn’t worried about the store burning because the fire seemed
contained to the Big Valley roof.

“It wasn’t really spreading,” he said.

Carbajal said the store reopened after employees were allowed to
return to the store. He said the general manager ordered employees to
throw away all of the deli food because smoke had gotten into the
building.