Community firefighters deserve gratitude

Freedom New Mexico

Some 400 firefighters and dozens of other public safety folks from eastern New Mexico and west Texas stepped up to battle Sunday’s massive wind-driven fire that burned at least 17,000 acres of grasslands and three homes across Curry and Roosevelt counties.

About 80 percent of those firefighters were volunteers — sales clerks, cowboys, railroad workers, preachers, builders, farmers, school teachers and social workers.

We’d like to thank them all, volunteers and paid professionals alike.

“It takes a certain type of person to do this line of work and another notch of special person to do it as a volunteer,” Clovis Fire Chief Ray Westerman said.

“Not everybody is cut out for this type of work. It’s a calling if you will, something that kinda gets in your blood, whether you get paid or not.”

Firefighting is a community service we cannot do without in a region that receives on average less than 20 inches of rainfall a year and dozens of hold-onto-your-hat wind days.

We can’t do without caring neighbors, either. When Sunday’s call went out, it was answered by our friends from as far away as Friona, Muleshoe, Lazbuddie, Grady, Arch, Roswell and Elida, among others.

“I assure you the vast majority involved in Sunday’s event were volunteers (from well over a dozen area communities),” Westerman said. “Without those volunteers, it would have been a whole different situation.”

And these volunteer firefighters are not just there for major disasters.

“They are a tremendous asset not only to their communities, but to us,” Westerman said. “I feel like they help us more than we help them. And not only with fire calls. They handle a lot of (ambulance) transports.”

We don’t say thank you often enough, so we’d like to say it loudly today. Thank you to our professional firefighters in Clovis and Portales, to our volunteers across the region, and to our road crews and law enforcement officers who came to the rescue on Sunday.

We lost grassland we can’t replace, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of fencelines, and we’re still rounding up livestock and counting those losses.

Fortunately, thanks to our area firefighters and neighbors, countless homes, acreage and domestic livestock sustained no damage. And no people were killed.

Words cannot express our appreciation. But you can see it in our eyes.