By Andy Jackson: CNJ staff writer
When O.B. Coffey saw smoke rising south of his home on the south side of Ute Lake in Logan on Saturday afternoon, he took a hose and wet things down around his home.
A short while later, a sheriff’s deputy knocked on Coffey’s door.
“The sheriff’s deputy came … and said, ‘You have to evacuate,’ so I grabbed insurance papers and went to town and was allowed back in at 6 p.m.,” Coffey said.
Coffey was one of several Logan residents evacuated for several hours as a precaution.
The fire, believed to have been started about 3 p.m. by sparks from electric lines and fanned by 50 mph gusts, charred 8,000 acres of land between Tucumcari and Logan north of U.S. 54, according to Tucumcari Fire Chief Mike Cherry.
The blaze, named the Hudson Fire, burned along the southeast side of the lake about 13 miles northeast of Tucumcari.
The highway was closed for several hours because of thick smoke that hampered visibility.
No injuries or structure losses were reported, according to Cherry.
The fire spread so fast that residents in the South Shore Village where Coffey lives were evacuated, Cherry said. Coffey said there are 11 homes in the new subdivision.
After spreading eight miles, the fire was contained by 6:30 p.m., Cherry said.
“We found the origin (of the fire), and eyewitnesses said they thought they saw sparks,” Cherry said.
Coffey, a retired director of vocational and technical education at Clovis Community College, went to an antique store in the town of Logan, he said, and was concerned he might lose his picture albums in the blaze.
He talked on the phone with his wife and daughter, who were caught in a road block on U.S. 54.
“Everyone is safe and sound as far as I know,” said Mayor Zaida Babb, in her last weeks of 20 years of serving Logan as mayor.
Coffey lived in Ruidoso for 18 years, he said, where he had been evacuated in the threat of an encroaching fire. But it was his first time to be evacuated in Logan, where he’s lived for 11 years, he said.
Though the fire is contained, firefighters will be out all night to ensure it doesn’t rekindle, said Cherry. He said 13 fire departments helped put out the blaze.