Winds wreak havoc

Winds that reached as high as 61 mph Sunday knocked down power lines on Norris Street. (Courtesy photo: Brad Drake)

CNJ staff

Firefighters had a busy day around the region on Sunday. In addition to the downtown fire in Clovis, an estimated 600 tons of cotton bur caught fire in Parmer County, closing a portion of U.S. Highway 84.

Also, power lines went down across Clovis as sustained winds were clocked as high as 51 mph.

The Texas fire, which began about three miles east of Farwell along Highway 84 at the Parmer County Cotton Grower’s Co-op sometime Sunday morning, spread from a truck used to transport cotton, according to the gin manager, Randy Mitchell.

Mitchell did not know why the truck ignited on Monday, nor did firefighters. Mitchell said the truck sustained some damage, which could be repaired by replacing a harness and some wires.

Firefighters from five departments responded to the gin fire, and some remained at the scene until 10 p.m. Sunday, although the highway was reopened around 6 p.m., according to Parmer County Fire Chief Henry Garcia.

Mitchell said the gin, with about 35 co-op members, sustained an estimated $3,000 in fire damage, however the gin itself and the cotton seed located about 50 yards from the fire remained untouched. The seed is valued at more than a million dollars, Mitchell said.

“We are extremely lucky,” Mitchell said. “We are fortunate to have a community that responded how they did. The community response was unbelievable.”

He said residents and firefighters alike battled the blaze, using civilian and city owned equipment to dig holes and dump dirt onto the cotton bur. The “trash” or remainder of the crop is often used as animal feed and is extremely flammable, Mitchell said.

“The only way you can get a bur fire to stop is to cover it with dirt,” he said. “It’s too hot a fire for water.”

Small fires inside the gin can be a weekly occurrence, Mitchell said, due to the flammable nature of cotton. However, they are usually easily stamped out, he said.

High winds were blamed for property damages across eastern New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle on Sunday, with roofing material, pieces of signage from area businesses and tree limbs littering streets. A tree was uprooted in a city park in Farwell and a power line went down in Texico.

Capt. Karen Burns of the Clovis Fire Department said firefighters received a call about 10:30 a.m. Sunday related to power lines down on Norris Street and Llano Estacado Boulevard. Firefighters arrived to find power poles broken or sagging for about a mile from Llano to Glenarm Drive.
Burns said wires were down at several locations around town, including 2400 Sheldon Street and 500 West Street, and outages were reported across town.

In Portales, a 40-foot tree fell on a house in the 600 block of South Main Street.

The tree fell a little before 11 a.m. on Sunday, knocking out power to the home.

Portales firefighters said they responded to “a couple of grass fires,” Lt. Lance Hill said, but nothing major in Roosevelt County.

Officials said no serious injuries were reported because of the wind or Sunday’s fires.