Serving the High Plains

Couple dies in Tucumcari house fire

A house fire Friday claimed the lives of a Tucumcari couple that was supposed to move their son’s home in Clovis later this month.

Richard Urioste Sr., 75, and Ann Urioste, 74, died in a blaze that gutted their home at 1910 S. Rock Island St. on Friday afternoon, said their son, Richard Urioste Jr. of Clovis. He was at the remains of the house Saturday afternoon to retrieve his parents’ personal papers and other belongings.

Quay County Sheriff Russell Shafer on Friday afternoon confirmed at least one fatality before New Mexico State Police took over the investigation. State police had not commented as of Saturday afternoon.

Richard Urioste Jr. said investigators told him a cigarette near an oxygen cylinder caused the fire. He said his mother was disabled and nearly bedridden. Investigators ruled out foul play, he added.

The couple’s son said his father’s body was found in the kitchen and his mother’s in the middle room, where the fire started. Richard Jr. said an investigator told him his father likely died of smoke inhalation, and their bodies were burned beyond recognition.

“Everything burnt down,” he said. “That was a beautiful home inside at one time.”

Richard Jr., who is employed as a home-care provider, said he had acquired a bigger house in Clovis so he and his parents could move in there later this month and he could help care for them.

“My dad was very well known here, well liked,” Richard Jr. said. “My dad liked to go fishing. He was a retired military, (in) Vietnam.

“My mom was a homebody; she took care of the house.”

A state fire marshal was dispatched to the scene to investigate.

Richard Jr. said Muffley Funeral Home in Clovis would be in charge of arrangements, which are pending.

Firefighters from the Tucumcari Fire Department and Conservancy Fire District No. 1 attempted to bring the fire under control.

Thick, white smoke rolled off the building as firefighters directed a stream of water through a broken west-facing window, and the metal roof appeared to be partially caved in near the south end of the home.

Flames soon were visible at the upper part of the south end of the house, and a sheriff’s deputy at the scene told a woman who said her grandparents lived there that emergency workers couldn’t go into the house because the roof was collapsing.

The smoke had shifted to black by 4:30 p.m., and several firefighters entered with a hose through the front door.

Shortly before 5 p.m., several state police officers approached and spoke with firefighters at the scene. Moments later, two women began screaming as they talked with police.

A group of people with the women could be seen comforting them as deputies began putting up crime-scene tape in front of the property and across Rock Island Street just north of Charles Street.

(Quay County Sun correspondent Emily Priddy contributed to this report.)

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