By Ryn Gargulinski: QCS
A Wednesday morning grassfire raged for about eight hours and wiped out approximately 1,500 acres of hay and grassland, said Tucumcari Fire Chief Mike Cherry. He said no one was injured in the blaze, which happened 11 miles southeast of Tucumcari, but it had power enough to annihilate the landscape and attract a slew of emergency personnel to the scene.
“We had 10 departments, 20 apparatus and 50 personnel at the fire, with an ambulance standing by,” he said.
Although livestock was grazing on the property, owned by Larry Perkins, Cherry said no charred remains of animals were found.
“We cut the fences so cattle could get out,” he said, adding several of them on the perimeter simply stood there and watched the fire burn.
Cherry said the fire, which broke out around 10:15 a.m., was most likely started by human error. “It’s still under investigation,” Cherry said, “but they think it was an accident.”
He added that any type of spark or small flame can erupt into such a fiery inferno when the conditions are right.
“We had good moisture last year so the grass is high. The wind dries it out and it’s just ready to go,” Cherry said, adding Wednesday’s breeziness definitely fueled the fire.
“The fire path is narrow and long, which is indicative of high winds,” he said while surveying the damage on Thursday afternoon.
Cherry said no monetary estimate could be given from the blaze –grass grows back, he said – but Perkins also had large bales of hay and a sprinkler system on the damaged land. Perkins did not respond to calls for comment.
Cherry said grass fires of this sort plague Quay County about once a year. Conditions, especially the wind, were so ripe on Wednesday, two other fires erupted, one near Grady and another outside of Portales in Roosevelt County.
Officials said Roosevelt residents of Floyd saw about 35,000 acres turn to ashes while about 100 were evacuated from their homes.
“Our 1,500 acres is small compared to what happened near Portales,” Cherry said, adding Quay fire fighters were initially called to Grady when their blaze broke out but were then told they need not come.
Said Cherry of the blaze that hit Quay, “There were no injuries, either civilian or fire fighter, that was rewarding.”