By QCS Staff
Firefighters brought a small granary fire under control about 4:30 p.m. Monday, said Tucumcari Fire Chief Mike Cherry.
Also at that time evacuees of the Mountain View and Chaparral apartments were told they could return to their residences. About 15 residents, some with pets, stayed at the Tucumcari Convention Center for about two and a half hours.
A two-block area surrounding Attebury Grain on west Railroad Avenue was evacuated because of the fire at the elevator.
“We have an incident. There is a little bit of grain burning,” said Cherry earlier Monday.
Cherry said the owner’s representatives from Amarillo came to Tucumcari and explained the layout of the granary so that firefighters could locate the fire’s source. It was discovered that a conveyor belt in a tunnel of the grain elevator had caught fire and some wheat dust was smoldering, Cherry said.
Precautions were taken because “if the grain gets stirred up the dust can get really explosive,” Cherry said.
Officials began evacuating the area residents and businesses about 2 p.m. and set up road barriers and cordoned off roads leading to the elevator. The roadblocks and barriers were removed about 4:45 p.m.
On Tuesday Kalon Lafferty said the fire was started by a worn bearing which caused the belt on the conveyor to burn in two, and cause debris on the floor of a tunnel to catch fire. Firefighters stayed at the elevator until 10 p.m. Monday to make sure the blaze was extinguished and returned on Tuesday to examine the elevator.
Two evacuees at the convention center on Monday said the experience wasn’t that difficult.
In fact, “We live four doors down and I finally got to talk to him,” said Lee Bonds of her neighbor Craig Miranda.
Having experienced a fire in an apartment building two years ago, Bonds said she always has an emergency suitcase packed. “I put it in my car and drove here.”
Mountain View Apartments manager Mercie Aragon said that about 75 percent of the 46 residents are elderly or disabled and assistance was needed to evacuate those in wheelchairs. Others found family members with whom they could stay, she said. A few were scared at first, but then calmed down, Aragon said.