Staff and wire reports
Firefighters were expecting to be up most of the night watching the remnants of a fire that broke out Tuesday along a median on U.S. Highway 70 near Blackwater Draw Museum and quickly spread east for five miles behind 50 mph winds.
The fire was reported about 2 p.m. and estimated only 50 percent contained by 7 p.m. but a most of the flame spreading was stopped, according to Portales Battalion Chief Shannon Lee. He said units would be working on containment throughout the night.
At one point the blaze threatened a nearby dairy farm, a communication tower, the Eastern New Mexico University Greyhound Stadium and the Blackwater Draw Museum.
No structures were damaged and there were no injuries.
“Due to high wind speed, it was able to jump the lanes of the highway and continue on,” said Lee.
Portales firefighters were the first to arrive on the scene with units from Clovis, Arch, Floyd, Texico and the New Mexico State Forestry Division arriving shortly after.
An Idaho-based Engine Strike Team brought to the area by the State Forestry Division because of tinder dry conditions was also on the scene.
“Having resources like the Idaho strike team and the team made up of other New Mexico-based fire departments available, we’re able to provide additional firefighters and equipment to supplement the outstanding work local, county and state firefighters have been doing,” said New Mexico State Forester Tony Delfin.
Lee said the fire lost momentum when it reached a charred area from a fire about a month ago.
He said early estimates were the fire scorched 2,200 to 2,500 acres and was human-caused, but the exact cause is still under investigation.
“It will probably be unable to be determined due to high wind speeds,” Lee said.
According to the New Mexico State Forestry Division, since Jan. 1, there have been more than 500 wildfires in New Mexico that have burned an estimated 557,000 acres.
Nearly 71,000 acres where charred in an April 17 fire that ignited with a tire blowout near Melrose. The blaze quickly spread across Curry and Roosevelt counties, forcing residents to abandon homes.
Local officials are still trying to put a price tag on the damage caused by the April fire.