Five houses destroyed in two Kirtland fires

Hannah Grover
The charred remains of a structure fire are pictured Saturday in Kirtland.

KIRTLAND – After five homes were destroyed in Kirtland fires on Friday and Saturday, San Juan County Fire Chief Craig Daugherty stressed the dangers of burning weeds.

A fire reported at approximately 5:30 p.m. Friday on County Road 6280 destroyed three homes, and a fire reported at approximately 11:30 a.m. Saturday on County Road 6261 destroyed another two residences.

Daugherty said both fires could have been prevented. The Friday night fire charred homes when a person burning weeds in a yard lost control of the blaze. The second fire was still being investigated Saturday afternoon, but Daugherty said investigators suspect that it could have been sparked by someone smoking a cigarette.

"This is a perfect example of what can happen with a small fire," Daugherty said as he stood near the smoldering remnants of two double-wide mobile homes, five vehicles, a travel trailer, four utility trailers and three outbuildings on Saturday.

Neighbor Scott Hill said he saw someone burning weeds in a nearby lot Saturday morning prior to the fire.

San Juan County Fire Department personnel extinguish a structure fire Saturday in Kirtland.

"You don't burn on a no-burn day, that's for sure," Hill said.

Josh Miller, who owns the charred property, had been at the hospital visiting his wife, who has cancer, when he received a call that his house was on fire.

He left the hospital, got into his Ford Mustang and sped to the house.

The Kirtland resident collects and repairs cars and had just finished repairing a Harley motorcycle. Inside his house, he had about $25,000 worth of tools.

He stood on Hill's porch examining the damage Saturday afternoon. He pointed to a 1968 Chevy El Camino owned by his son, Tyler Cole. The El Camino, once painted bright orange, sat at a corner of the property "burnt and charred," as Hill described it.

"The only thing I've got left is my Mustang," Miller said. "That's the only thing I've got left in the whole world. That and my kids and my wife."

A gofundme site has been set up for the cancer treatment for his wife, Tasha Miller.

Daugherty said a combination of dry conditions and high winds made the fires extremely damaging. He said this year there are a lot more weeds that fuel fires.

"The weeds grew really tall last year with the moisture," he said.

Daugherty said anyone who wants to burn weeds should call 505-334-1180 to get a burn permit.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.