By Andy Jackson/Freedom Newspapers
When O.B. Coffey saw smoke rising south of his home on the south side of Ute Lake in Logan on Saturday afternoon, he took a hose and wet things down around his home.
A short while later, a sheriff’s deputy knocked on Coffey’s door.
“The sheriff’s deputy came … and said ‘You have to evacuate,’ so I grabbed insurance papers and went to town and was allowed back in at 6 p.m.,” Coffey said.
Coffey was one of 16 Logan residents evacuated for several hours as a precaution.
The fire, believed to have been started about 3 p.m. by sparks from electric lines and fanned by 50 mph gusts, charred 8,000 acres of land between Tucumcari and Logan north of U.S. 54, according to Tucumcari Fire Chief Mike Cherry.
Logan Fire Chief Rex Stall said there was no proof that electric lines caused the fire, but felt it was a reasonable conclusion after talking to witnesses.
The blaze, named the Hudson Fire, burned along the southeast side of the lake about 13 miles northeast of Tucumcari.
The highway was closed for several hours because of thick smoke that hampered visibility.
With fires blazing throughout Texas and Oklahoma as well, Stall said area fire departments are very familiar with grass fires and aiding other departments. On Sunday, Stall said he was part of a fire crew that was coming to aid a fire in Channing, Texas. On the way, the unit was redirected to Clayton to help out with a different fire.
“We’ve been going all over the place,” said Stall. “It’s been busy.”
Stall estimates that within the county area, his department and others have responded to as many fires in the first three months of 2006 as in the previous three years combined.
“The overall situation went well,” Stall said. “It was the same things (as other fires). The dry conditions didn’t help us.”
The fire spread so fast that residents in the South Shore Village where Coffey lives were evacuated, Cherry said. Coffey said there are 11 homes in the new subdivision.
After spreading eight miles, the fire was contained by 6:30 p.m. Stall said crews stayed until about 9 p.m. to make sure the fire didn’t restart.
“We found the origin (of the fire), and eyewitnesses said they thought they saw sparks,” Cherry said.
Coffey, a retired director of vocational and technical education at Clovis Community College, went to an antique store in the town of Logan, he said, and was concerned he might lose his picture albums in the blaze.
Stall said it was fortunate that many Logan residents were out of town for Saturday’s Class 1A boys basketball title game in Albuquerque, but the game really didn’t leave local fire units shorthanded.
QCS Interim Managing Editor Kevin Wilson contributed to this report.
By the numbers
Totals associated with Saturday’s fire in Logan, according to information supplied by Logan Fire Chief Rex Stall.
13 — fire departments involved
16 — people evacuated from the South Shore Village
28 — apparati (fire trucks, etc.)
55 — personnel
8,000 — estimated acres of damage