QCS Senior Writer
A fire that began Thursday morning and burned for more than 10 hours despite the efforts of volunteer firefighters from six area departments destroyed the home of Tucumcari Schools Superintendent Aaron McKinney.
Volunteer firefighters from Rural 1 were dispatched at 11 a.m., to the McKinney’s residence on Quay Road 66.5 to a report of a travel trailer that had caught fire and was parked next to the house.
Rural 1 arrived on the scene and shortly after requested additional units to assist and advised Central dispatch that the fire had spread from the travel trailer to the house’s roof .
Additional volunteer firefighters from District 2, District 4, Tucumcari, Bard-Endee and Logan responded to help extinguish the fire, which reignited from wind gusts during the evening hours. The fire flared up again and eventually consumed the house.
Suzy McKinney, Aaron McKinney’s wife, said she was taking out the garbage when she noticed smoke and a small flame coming from the travel trailer that had been parked near the rear of their house. She said she ran in grabbed her phone called 911 and began to spray water on the flames with her garden hose.
“For a moment, the flames seemed under control,” McKinney said. “Then just like that, the flames grew larger and began to engulf the travel trailer and spread to the roof of our house.”
Next door, McKinney’s daughter Misty Pendley was tending to her son Kean when she heard her mother’s screams.
“I looked out my front door and saw the flames,” Pendley said. “It all happened so quickly, it’s hard to explain.”
McKinney and Pendley quickly moved the vehicles and a tractor that were parked next to the travel trailer and then moved to a safe distance with the child as fire fighters arrived on scene.
As Suzy McKinney sat in a truck with her daughter and grandson, she expressed gratitude that everyone was safe.
“The most important things are right here with me safe and sound,” she said.
“We had so many heirlooms, which people had given us to use for safekeeping,” McKinney said. The McKinneys have lived in the home for 18 years, she said.
McKinney said she realized that there was an added danger to the fire fighters who were combating the blaze as it spread through the attic and upstairs portion of the house. She said in an upstairs closet there were several rifles and rounds of ammunition, mostly shotgun shells, and she was worried the heat from the fire might set them off.
McKinney said the firefighters were able to remove the rifles and ammunition before it became a danger. She said a few hours into the fire she was told by a fire fighter that 4,500 gallons of water had already been sprayed on and in the house.
“I can only imagine the extent of the damage,” McKinney said. “I’m sure the upstairs floors are near collapse if they have not already.”
McKinney said her oldest and youngest daughters are in Japan and had been texting, calling and contacting her abut the fire through Facebook to make sure the family was OK and to learn the extent of the damage.
“I keep telling them we are OK,” McKinney said. “They know the house can be rebuilt but are still upset the home they grew up in is gone.”
Pendley said she was five years old, her older sister McKayla Lacy was seven and her younger sister Megan McKinney was three when they moved into the home.
Aaron McKinney said he designed and built most of the home with the help of Suzy’s father Jerry Henson, who was the general contractor at the time. He said he explained the home’s layout to firefighters to give them a better picture of what they were facing inside the home.
“All that hard work is gone,” Aaron said. “It’s a tremendous loss, however, I’m eternally grateful my family is OK and safe, which is the most important thing of all.”