1,259 acres burned over weekend
With 100-degree temperatures and the occasional thunder, grass fires have scorched more than 1,200 acres in Lea County within the last week pushing 2016’s total closer to 10,000 acres lost.
Lightning strikes were blamed twice for causing two significant grass fires within a 48-hour period that torched an estimated 1,259 acres with an 809-acre blaze on State Highway 176, west of Eunice, last Friday and another 450-acre fire Sunday night.
“It was a big fire,” Eunice Fire Chief Jesse Davis, incident commander for the first fire, said. “Based on how dry the conditions are and the wind and everything else — we had a hard time getting it contained. It took us quite a while to get it contained.”
Several units from Eunice Fire responded with mutual aid assistance from Monument, Jal, Hobbs, Knowles, Maljamar, Lea County Office of Emergency Management and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Davis said the department got the call at 4:30 p.m. and it took about four hours to fully contain the blaze. He confirmed there were no structures damaged or injuries.
“It’s a little bigger than average,” he said. We have our share of grass fires around here. This was on the larger end of the spectrum.”
There were reports of smoke blowing into south Hobbs from the fire due to the wind.
Meanwhile, Sunday’s blaze started in a remote area west of Highway 457 off Priscilla Road near the county line with Chaves County. No structures were reported damaged.
“It started out in the middle of the pasture,” Tatum and Maljamar Fire Chief Curry Pruit said. “We’re assuming it was lightning, but it was in a really rural area. Not many people around so it had to get kind of big before people noticed it.”
Pruit said Tatum, Lovington and Maljamar Fire Departments responded after getting the call around 11:25 p.m. He added that additional 27 acres burned Friday night around the same time other departments were fighting the Highway 176 fire.
As earlier reported, 8,333 acres burned in Lea County through June, which already surpassed the past two years combined.
Kelly Farrell can be reached at 391-5437 or by email.