County praised for fire response

By Tonya Garner: CNJ staff writer

The monstrous grass fire last week at the Melrose Bombing Range that consumed 35,000 acres was the hot topic at Tuesday’s Curry County Commission meeting.

Road Superintendent Danny Davis recounted to the commissioners details of his department’s involvement in fighting the blaze.

Davis said he assisted in fighting the fire along with six road department employees. They utilized four motor-graders and three county pickup trucks.

Davis said his department assists with seven to 10 grass fires annually.

“This fire was nothing like I had ever seen before,” Davis said. “Everyone fighting this fire worked well together.”

According to the superintendent, the road department’s responsibility concerning grass fires is to “get around the fire” and clear vegetation, thereby cutting off fuel for the fire.

Dan Ware, public relations coordinator for the New Mexico State Forestry Division, said the role the heavy equipment operators play in fighting grass fires is invaluable because it allows the firefighters to perform their duties more efficiently.

“It is all about teamwork when it comes to fighting grass fires,” Ware said. “The road department’s job is critical.”

He added most people don’t realize crews that handle the heavy equipment are putting their lives on the line to cut off the fire.

Davis said road department employees are currently required to attend safety meetings every three months where they receive training on handling grass fires.

Lt. James Nichols of Cannon’s Public Affairs office said they’re still investigating the cause of the fire and would notify the public immediately once a definite cause had been determined.

Additional items discussed at the meeting:
• The commissioners approved the county employee holidays for 2006.

• Doug Bowman, undersheriff, reported himself, Sheriff Roger Hatcher and Deputy Malin Parker recently received commendations for their part in the success of the “Generation Ice Takedown,” which resulted in several drug-related arrests.

• Treasurer Rhonda Bookout reported her office is continuing its extended hours to offer taxpayers convenience in paying their tax bills. She added many property owners are choosing to pay their bill in its entirety.

• Bowman reported the Curry County Detention Center currently houses 245 adult inmates and 14 juveniles, while 60 are being housed in other counties.

• Miranda Chavez, grant writer/facilitator, requested $50,000 in grant money to supplement the DWI program. The county was awarded $5,000 for law enforcement to provide saturation patrols, check points and underage enforcement projects.

• County manager Dick Smith reported a joint city/county luncheon will be held at noon Thursday in the North Annex of the Clovis-Carver library for elected officials and employees.

Smith also reported seven people have been chosen as candidates for the Detention Center Administrator position.
Interviews are expected to begin in late December.

The county has entered into a joint powers agreement with Union County to house their juvenile inmates.

n Lance Pyle, assistant county manager, requested the commissioners approve 42 indigent dental claims totaling $7,890.