Fire danger up during cold months

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo An apartment building at 1000 S. Oak St. caught on fire around 8 a.m. Sunday.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

A half-dozen fires have displaced Curry County residents from their homes since Thanksgiving weekend, according to a local Red Cross official.

It’s a reminder to think fire safety during cold months, Red Cross Zia Service Center Manager Nicole Thompson said.

Thompson recommended residents check their heaters, vents and wiring and use good fire safety in heating their homes.

“Most of the fires that we respond to are preventable,” she said.

Thompson said the Red Cross responds to fire scenes, providing support and assistance to emergency responders and making sure fire victims have food, clothing and shelter.

Three apartments were destroyed by a fire Sunday, leaving seven adults with nothing but the clothes on their backs, she said.

Sunday’s fire at 1000 S. Oak St. appears to have been caused by a faulty heating system in of one of the units, Clovis Fire Chief Ray Westerman said. The investigation is not complete.

Westerman said the fire burned in the attic for some time before it was noticed. The roof collapsed, rendering the triplex a total loss, he said.

“We were very fortunate there were no injuries, but you’re dealing with a lot of emotional issues,” Thompson said.

“There wasn’t anything saved from the apartments … None of the tenants have insurance. They’re really going to be starting over.”

Most victims have no insurance, she said.

Thompson said from June 2006 to July that Red Cross responded to 22 home fires in the area in which families needed assistance, most of which occurred in the winter months.

In the last two weeks, she said her agency has spent more than $4,000 to help families recover from fires.

Historically, January and February have the highest incidence of fire, she said.

Home fires during the colder months are typical she said, explaining families who are struggling financially often use substandard or unsafe heating.

“When families are cold and they don’t have the resources, they’re inventive when it comes to a heat source for their house,” she said.

The Zia Service Center works in Curry, Roosevelt, Quay, De Baca and Guadeloupe counties, she said.

Helping families affected by fire is a difficult but rewarding endeavor, she said.

“You’re very humbled when you come upon a fire scene and you’re able to help a family and the significance of what that means,” she said.

Fast facts

To make a donation or volunteer with the Red Cross call 763-4129.