Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Firefighter dies in blaze

John Cammack of Nara Visa fell from an engine during grass fire.

 


A Nara Visa volunteer firefighter died on Thursday after suffering burns trying to extinguish a fire that was more than seven miles long and three miles wide.

John Cammack, 74, of Nara Visa, was severely burned after falling from a fire engine during a "burn over" Wednesday night, said Nara Visa Fire Chief Gary Girard.

Girard said a second firefighter, Kyle Perez, was also injured during the incident.

He said the firefighters were attempting to refill a fire engine with a water tanker when the winds shifted abruptly.

"We were no longer fighting the fire; we were running from the fire," Girard said.

Girard said the flames were as high as the fire engine as they fled the area. He said Cammack was transported to Lubbock for treatment and Perez was admitted to a hospital in Amarillo.

Perez' condition was not released, but a family member posted on social media that he'd been released from the hospital.

Girard said Nara Visa, Rosebud and Logan fire departments were fighting five fires fueled by dry grass and spread quickly with wind gusts of 40 mph.

The fires were west of Nara Visa, about 50 miles northeast of Tucumcari in Quay County.

Girard said at one point, three of the fires combined into one large fire. He said one unit reported the fire spread across the Texas border.

Girard said the amount of acreage burned in the fire is not known, but it took the three departments more than 10 hours to contain and extinguish.

The largest fire reported was near the Caprock south of Tucumcari off of New Mexico 209. Firefighters from Quay Rural 1 and Rural 2 fought the fire from 1:03 p.m. Wednesday to 1:07 a.m. Thursday.

The fire burned more than 350 acres said John Hinze, Rural 1 fire chief.

Governor orders flags at half-staff on Tuesday.

Flags across the state and in Emmitsburgh, Maryland, were at half-staff as a family and community laid one of their own to rest Tuesday in Nara Visa.

John Cammack, 74, of Nara Visa died on June 22, from burns he sustained fighting the Griffith fire the previous day. The fire was seven miles long and three miles wide.

On Monday, Gov. Susana Martinez issued an executive order declaring all flags in the state be brought to half-staff on Tuesday from sunrise to sunset.

Martinez issued the order to honor the more than 30-year volunteer firefighter whose neighbors and friends said volunteering was just part of Cammack's nature.

A few people shared insight about the fallen firefighter.

John Cammack was a hard working honest man; he would help every neighbor if he could, said Gary Girard, Nara Visa fire chief.

Girard said Cammack was the first one to help out anyone who needed, whether an animal problem or repairing a fence. He said Cammack had worked as a certified veterinarian in Colorado before returning to the family farm following his fathers death.

Girard said from the time John moved back, he has been an active member of the community, not just in his farm work; he joined the volunteer fire department in 1988.

Martinez issuing the executive order to honor Cammack is a wonderful thing, said Girard. He said Cammack lived 20 miles from the station, but you could count on him to come in and help however he could. If there was a fire towards his homestead, he would wait for the fire engines and join them.

Girard said John was also honored on Tuesday in Emmitsburg, Maryland, where the flag was flown at half mast and his name and story were added to the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial. He said if John were here, he would have said "no, don't add my name to the memorial; I was only doing my duty."

Girard said he has spoken to several news outlets in the past few days, and each time he finds more to say about his friend.

"I have been thinking about what I am going to say," said Chester Kimber on Monday. Kimber, a neighbor and friend, spoke Tuesday at Cammack's memorial services.

Kimber said Cammack was a special person in the way he put others before himself. He said Cammack used to buy little bales of alfalfa from him; he would pay before he left, always be on time and even help load the trailer.

"However, John would never let me help him unload the trailer," he said.

Kimber said at events, dinners and memorial meals, Cammack was the last to get into line for food. He would wait until everyone else had been served and then get in line. He would also bring food to every community meal.

Kimber said Cammack would also take his 90-year-old neighbor, Howard Robertson, to all of the events he attended.

Kimber said on of the last conversations he had with John, he told him how much he appreciated him taking Howard to events.

"I will never forget John's response," Kimber said. "'It's my honor to take Howard to events. Howard and Pauline, (Howard's late wife) have always treated me wonderful.'"

Kimber said Cammack was the most humble man he ever knew - he was a bragger but never on himself.

"There are not enough words to describe who 'Johnny' was to my family," said Liz Burns, a neighbor and friend of more than 30 years.

Burns said Johnny was kind, caring, thoughtful, respectful and always willing to help anyone he could and never expected it in return.

Burns said Johnny took the job of vice president of the cemetery board with great pride. He kept records on the burials and the plots.

"I don't know who will take his place, if anyone could or what we will do now that he is gone," Burns said. "Johnny gave us all advise, did everything he could even though he was 74. He will be greatly missed," Burns said.

 

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