Wildfires force evacuations

Freedom New Mexico: Alisa Boswell Travis Reynoles of the Texico Fire Department puts his gear on Saturday night at the Milnesand Fire Department as he prepares to be called out to a grass fire which started 15 miles north of Tatum. The fire was estimated to have burned 500 acres.

Freedom New Mexico

Wind-whipped wildfires burned thousands of acres Saturday and forced evacuations near Milnesand and Tucumcari.

The so-called Kizer 5 fire burned an estimated 5,000 acres of state and private land about 15 miles north of Tatum, spreading quickly to Milnesand.

State Forestry spokesman Dan Ware said about six homes in the tiny village of Milnesand were evacuated but no damage to structures was reported. The nearest communities are 20 miles away.

Wind gusts of up to 46 mph fanned the flames.

Fire departments from Clovis and Portales and several other nearby rural community departments converged in Milnesand to help fight the blaze.

In Quay County, a grass fire that started at U.S. 54 mile marker 310 around 1 p.m. was being contained by area fire crews, Tucumcari Fire Department Chief Mike Cherry said.

The fire charred an estimated 2,000 acres of tinder dry grass. Fire engines stood by to protect six homes and residents voluntarily evacuated.

“It’s not controlled. It’s contained, but we think fully contained. There’s still hot spots. We’ve released almost everybody and there’s a couple of trucks still out there,” Cherry said.

Cherry said no structural damage resulting from the fire has been reported.

He said about 100 fire personnel from 11 area fire departments responded to the call. New Mexico State Police began diverting traffic from U.S. 54 around 1:19 p.m. The highway reopened at 5:23 p.m.

Cherry said the fire covered an area four miles long and three miles wide, though he did not have an official measurement.

“By the time the first fire crew got there, (the fire) had jumped 54 on the north side and away it went,” Cherry said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.