By Tony Parra: PNT Staff Writer
Lightning strikes caused havoc Sunday, starting more than 12 fires in Roosevelt County that burned more than 24,000 acres, according to local firefighters.
There were no injuries or damaged structures reported because of the grass fires that occurred near Elida, Floyd, Arch, Milnesand, Highway and Crossroads. Firefighters from Roosevelt and Curry counties helped fight the fires.
Adam Anthony, Elida fire department chief, said there were three large fires in the Elida area Sunday. Anthony said the largest fire burned 11,000 acres and started about 15 to 20 miles northwest of Elida. Anthony said it started at around 1:30 p.m. and was contained at approximately 1 a.m. Monday.
Anthony said another fire burned 9,000 acres and the smallest fire burned 250 acres in the Elida area.
Paul Luscombe, Dora fire department chief, said Dora firefighters responded to a fire in the Highway area at about 3 p.m. Luscombe said they initially went to help firefighters battling a blaze in the Elida area, but had to divert their resources to Highway about an hour later.
Luscombe said he called officials from the New Mexico Forestry Division for assistance. Dan Ware of the New Mexico Forestry Division said a single-engine air tanker and a heavy air tanker were sent to help with the fire.
“They saved us,” Luscombe said. “We had to call them because of the rough terrain, and our resources were spread thin throughout the county.”
According to Luscombe, the tankers were able to drop retardant at the head of the fire to stop it from spreading west. Luscombe said northeast winds were blowing the fire west.
Luscombe said there were three or four fires in Milnesand, two fires in Crossroads and one in Highway. Luscombe said Fort Sumner firefighters helped with a couple of Floyd fires also on Sunday.
Luscombe said the biggest fire, the one near Highway, was controlled shortly before midnight but not before it had burned approximately 4,000 acres.
Firefighters kept the fire from damaging one structure in the path of the fire, according to Luscombe.
Luscombe said Lonnie Berry and other members of the First Baptist Church in Portales helped out by sending sacked lunches to the firefighters.
Ware said lightning strikes caused problems for firefighters across the state.
“We had a lot of fires across the state of New Mexico,” Ware said. “We had around 40 fires on Sunday all because of lightning strikes.”
Portales Fire Department Chief Raul Muniz said Portales firefighters helped stop fires in the Elida, Arch and Highway areas Sunday.
“It was hectic,” Mickey Hargrove, Portales Fire Department Battalion Chief said. “We also had two medical responses back to back (during the fires), one involving a four-wheeler accident.”
Hargrove said the medical responses were not related to the fires.
Muniz and Hargrove said firefighters from Curry and Roosevelt counties frequently respond to major fires such as those Sunday. Muniz said under the mutual aid agreement with the local area fire departments, firefighters from throughout the area work together to stop fires in both counties.