House fire sends woman to hospital, kills family pets

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo A Clovis fireman inspects the ceiling of the house.

CNJ staff

An afternoon house fire sent a woman to the hospital and claimed the lives of two family pets.

The blaze Tuesday gutted a two-story home at 401 Sheldon Street, killing two family cats and displacing the family, said Clovis Fire Chief Ray Westerman.

Westerman said the fire is being classified as accidental, though the cause is still under investigation.

Firefighters were called to the scene around 3:30 p.m. and arrived to find flames showing in two front windows, Westerman said.

Westerman said the fire was quickly extinguished but not before catastrophic damage occurred.

Battalion Chief Montie Powell said the Red Cross was called to the scene to assist the family — a father, mother, two young children and a grandparent — in finding accommodations and meeting their needs.

The mother, transported to Plains Regional Medical Center to be evaluated for smoke inhalation, had a good prognosis at the scene, he said.

There were no other injuries.

The family was given safe accommodations for the night and food and clothing, said Cindy Adams, regional CEO for the New Mexico Red Cross.

“We will work with them to make sure that their emergency caused needs are met and then refer them to our partner agencies who can help in other ways,” she said.

“When people are devastated by a fire that consumes everything they own, their initial reaction is shock, so our volunteers want to make sure that they’re in a safe secure place… so they can regroup and make plans for how to put their lives back together.”

It was the second accidental residential fire Tuesday, Westerman said.

A morning fire on Mariah Drive damaged a roof when an area around a fireplace chimney ignited. Firefighters were able to arrest the blaze and prevent major damage, he said.

The fire department has been busy lately with multiple structure fires on top of an already increased call volume, Westerman said.

Many of the fires are being investigated as possible arsons including a vacant double-wide trailer on east Grand Avenue and a shed in the 100 block of Connelly Street that caught fire Monday night.

Those fires added to a growing list of suspicious fires in recent weeks, including the destruction of K-Bob’s Steakhouse Nov. 25 and multiple vacant trailers that have burned in Town Talk Mobile Home Park.

And for about 15 months or more firefighters have seen a higher than normal number of unexplained, unoccupied structure fires, he said.

Abandoned houses that catch fire when they have no utilities hooked up and no one living in them immediately raise flags, he said.

The causes can be anything from homeless people looking for shelter and starting small fires for warmth, youth being destructive or careless or just plain arson.

But the numbers are certainly high enough to be a concern, he said.

“That’s very unusual,” he said.

“There could be any number of reasons why that could be occurring but I would be speculating. I just don’t have any real reasons for it other than the fact its unusual.”

Westerman said Clovis police are investigating the arson cases and the state fire marshal is assisting with the K-Bob’s investigation due to its size and commercial status.

Westerman said he doesn’t know how long it will take to develop leads in the cases.

“I don’t know the timeline when we’re going to hear anything back,” he said, explaining, “Our people have got a lot of work to do, not only our people but the police department as well. It’s going to take time.”

Police said previously they do not suspect a connection between the arson cases.

Adams said assistance offered to families by the Red Cross is completely funded through donations.

Information on how to help: www.redcrossnm.org