Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Two dead following fire


February 5, 2020

Ron Warnick

New Mexico State Police officers confer with each other Friday afternoon in front of a fire-gutted house in the 1900 block of South Rock Island Street in Tucumcari. The blazed killed two Tucumcari residents.

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

Richard Urioste Sr., 75, and Ann Urioste, 74, were found dead 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.

An email Monday afternoon from New Mexico State Police public information officer Ray Wilson stated the Office of Medical Examiner is working to determine a cause of the Uriostes' deaths. The state fire marshal's office also was activated to process the fire scene.

“The cause of the fire is still under investigation,” Wilson added.

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.

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 could live with and help care for his parents.

“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.”

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

According to call logs from the Tucumcari-Quay County Emergency Communications Center, police were called to the Urioste's home at 12:46 p.m. Thursday about a harassment case, one day before the fire. However, an administrator at the Quay County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday afternoon the harassment case actually occurred on Ninth Street and not at the Uriostes' home address.

The fire first was reported at 3:28 p.m. Friday, according to the emergency communications center. Firefighters from the Tucumcari Fire Department and Rural Fire District No. 1 attempted to bring the blaze 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 its 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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