By Argen Duncan: PNT Senior Writer
A grassfire southwest of Causey destroyed one home and a barn and burned 1,300 acres Thursday, while homeowners escaped serious injury despite being caught in the blaze.
Roosevelt County Sheriff Darren Hooker said the cause was unknown. He said a State Fire Marshal investigator was coming because Roosevelt County Electric Cooperative personnel had determined the fire did not start due to power lines colliding in the wind and sparking, a typical cause in such cases.
Eighty-three-year-old Weldon Carmichael, whose home was burned, and his son Hershel, who lives less than a mile away, were surrounded by the fire during their escape.
“It’s the worst thing I’ve ever been through,” Hershel Carmichael said.
The men were in their separate homes when the fire reached them. Hershel Carmichael said the fire passed by his house, but caught his father’s.
The keys to Weldon Carmichael’s vehicles were inside the burning house, so it took him a little while to get a pickup with a key and drive to his son’s house. Hershel Carmichael thought his father had gone into Portales until he arrived.
The men got into Hershel Carmichael’s truck to leave with the dogs, Hershel Carmichael said. He intended to drive through a fence so his horses could escape, but the fire caught up to them at the fence.
“Flames literally came up over the hood, and (the cab) just filled with smoke,” Hershel Carmichael said.
The smoke was so thick, he said, it made the speedometer invisible. The men kept going and pulled out of the flames.
The horses and the dogs with them were uninjured, but animals inside Weldon Carmichael’s house died, Hershel Carmichael said.
Besides his house, Weldon Carmichael lost a small barn, a travel trailer and some farm equipment.
Causey firefighter Mike Clark said crews saved some vehicles and nearby equipment.
“The house was already pretty well involved when we got here,” Clark said.
Hershel Carmichael said the fire started near a neighbor’s house, and his weather station registered 62 mph winds when the flames hit.
Milnesand Fire Chief John Mohon said fire crews were alerted to the blaze at 12:18 p.m., and the first unit arrived at the scene at 12:52 p.m. Firefighters had the fire contained and controlled about two hours later.
“If we hadn’t had the plowed fields on the southeast side, it would be in Texas,” John Mohon said of the fire.
Firefighter Chaddick Mohon, John Mohon’s son, said plowed fields helped on the northeast side of the fire as well.
John Mohon also attributed firefighters’ quick success to fast response time, good communication, getting fire trucks on the northeast side of the blaze and effective equipment.
“Seventy-five percent of the units had over 3,000 gallons (of water) to attack with,” he said.
Mohon said the same percentage of trucks had six-wheel drive to maneuver in the sand.
One Dora tanker was damaged in the firefighting, but no one was injured in the accident. Dora Fire Chief Paul Luscombe said wind was a contributing factor, but the damage didn’t come from the flames.
Elida, Dora, Milnesand, Causey, Arch and Portales fire departments were on scene with a total of about 45 people. Roosevelt County provided three road graders, and the county Emergency Management Department provided burritos and water in collaboration with First Baptist Church.