Fire consumes 7,000 acres south of Portales

Freedom news: Karl Terry A fire truck drives toward a grass fire in rural Roosevelt County about 10 miles south of Portales.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Firefighters spent more than four hours Tuesday battling a blaze that consumed more than 7,000 acres of grassland south of Portales, according to officials.

A towering column of smoke to the south was noticeable to residents in downtown Portales late in the morning.

Acting Portales Fire Lt. Steven Cain said firefighters and road crews cut a break around the fire and were successful in containing it around 2:30 p.m.

“It was one of the bigger fires that we’ve had,” he said.

Cain said the fire was comparable in size to the fire that jumped U.S. 70 between Clovis and Portales this fall, but not nearly as devastating as the 2005 Floyd fire.

The majority of the land was Conservation Reserve Program land between N.M. 206 and N.M. 88, he said. Livestock were in the burned areas, but no injuries or deaths were reported, he said.

One home was saved from the fire, but likely suffered smoke damage, he said.

Firefighters from Portales, Dora, Arch, Causey, Floyd, Elida, Clovis, Muleshoe and Milnesand responded.

Cain said the cause of the fire is being investigated. The fire was first reported just after 10 a.m.

Luscombe said the head of the fire grew to more than three miles wide before it finished its run approximately a half-mile from the Arch Highway (N.M. 88).

“The mutual aid agreements between the departments is key to even stopping something like this at all,” Luscombe said. “There’s not any single one of us who can put this kind of fire out on our own. We’re going to see more of these,” he said noting the dry conditions and available fuel.

Clovis Fire Chief Ray Westerman said high winds and dry conditions make grass fires more volatile and difficult to fight.

“The growth that we’ve had with last year’s rain is dry now, and we haven’t had the rain or snow this year,” Westerman said. “It all makes for a bad combination when it comes to grass fires.”