An unoccupied home west of Floyd was destroyed during Wednesday’s fire. (Freedom Newspapers: Leslie Spence)
By Tony Parra: Freedom Newspapers
FLOYD — “You could fit everything in two half-gallon buckets.”
That’s how L.A. Davis of Floyd summarized his family’s loss following a devastating fire that swept across his property on Wednesday.
Davis said their three-bedroom home burned to the ground, leaving only a foundation. “It was just ashes,” he said.
Other Roosevelt County residents reported damage to fencing and displaced livestock after a grass fire roared through their community south and east of the Melrose Bombing Range where the fire began.
One abandoned home was destroyed, along with several barns and storage sheds. Another home sustained minor damage, as did some property at the Floyd school.
The fire, which began about 9:30 a.m., forced evacuation of about 100 Floyd residents — including school students — before it was brought under control about 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday night.
Officials estimated it burned 26,000 to 35,000 acres. Almost 200 firefighters from 14 agencies helped bring it under control.
Cannon Air Force Base officials reported a dozen firefighters were treated for minor injuries, but no serious injuries occurred and no one was killed.
While some ranchers said they were still looking for livestock on Thursday, the Davis family likely suffered the greatest loss.
L.A. Davis said his wife Sarah was in Lubbock for a doctor’s visit on Wednesday when their house burned. He said he tried to get to his home around 12:30 p.m., but firefighters had the road blocked. He said the fire didn’t reach his home for at least two hours after he arrived.
“I understand they did it for safety reasons, but it was my home,” Davis said.
Davis said there were irrigation wells on his property, which could have been used to save the home if he’d been able to get there. He said the family lost all of its belongings, including furniture, clothing and family portraits.
Davis said he met with Cannon Air Force Base officials at the site where his house once stood. He said they explained to him about the claims process for those who had property destroyed because of the fire.
While the fire was declared under control Wednesday night, about 60 firefighters continued to work hot spots throughout the day on Thursday.
“We kept personnel all through the night,” said Darwin Chenault, fire chief with the Portales Fire Department.
Paul Benoit, Floyd superintendent, said there was minor damage to the playground area on the west side of the school. Benoit said he returned from Albuquerque around 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday from a rural schools’ conference. He was not present when the school was evacuated at 1 p.m. on Wednesday.
“Chris Duncan (Floyd High School principal) and Damon Terry (elementary principal) did a great job of evacuating the school as quickly as possible,” Benoit said.
There was no school on Thursday in Floyd and Chuck Haman, Roosevelt County emergency management coordinator, said there will be no school, today.
Chenault said firefighters worked around the town Wednesday to try to keep buildings from being burned.
“We had units set up … and made a stand at Floyd,” Chenault said. “We protected them there.”
Chenault, who has been a firefighter for 20 years, said this is the first time he’s had to help evacuate a school because of a fire.
The fire stopped about a mile short of Mark Dunlap’s house near Floyd.
Dunlap, however, wasn’t concerned. He didn’t know, and he wouldn’t have had time to care if he did.
“I wasn’t worried about my house because I had no idea it was (spreading) that far. I was trying to keep it from getting to the (Floyd) school,” said Dunlap, a worker for the Roosevelt County Road Department and a member of the Floyd School Board. “It does no good to worry (about your property) because there’s nothing you can do.”
Dunlap and other members of the road department were some of the many volunteers assisting local fire departments with the blaze.
Benoit said an old wooden barn across N.M. 267 from the school grounds was burned. Chenault said the barn was more than 70 years old and had not been in use.
Charlie Buzard said his son’s house was damaged but that firefighters kept damage to a minimal. He said 40 bales of hay were destroyed in the fire. He said he estimates about 400 of the 1,500 acres he owns were burned.
Buzard said firefighters helped cut a fence to allow 30 heifers and three horses to avoid being trapped by the fire.
Floyd McAlister, Roosevelt County Extension Agent, said he was able to view some of the burned grassland but wasn’t able to get deep into the burned areas to see exactly how much damage occurred. McAlister said he knew about two or three severely burned head of cattle.
Richard Long, who lives in Grand Junction, Colo., said his cousin called him to tell him his property had burned. Long said he owns a two-bedroom house, which was not in use. He said there was also an old chicken barn, not in use, and some storage buildings on the property.
The Davis, Buzard and Long properties are all located just south of the bombing range.