Officials: Training was taking place when fire broke out

Freedom Newspapers

Air Force officials said Thursday that training was taking place at the Melrose Bombing Range when a monstrous grass fire broke out, but they said the cause of the blaze has still not been determined.

A news release from Cannon Air Force Base reported the range was “being used for normal training sorties by Air Force aircraft” when the fire began about 9:30 a.m.

Cannon firefighters responded, but “high winds created conditions in which the fire became uncontrollable,” the release said.

Cannon personnel asked the Melrose Fire Department for help about 10 a.m., the Cannon release said, and the fire spread outside the range about 10:30 a.m.

Officials estimated the fire, fueled by high winds with gusts in excess of 40 mph, spread across more than 25,000 acres, mostly south and east of the range, before it was brought under control about 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday. About 100 people in the Roosevelt County community of Floyd were evacuated, but officials said no deaths or serious injuries occurred.

About 60 firefighters continued to work hot spots on Thursday, officials said.

Officials said one home was destroyed. Cannon officials said 12 firefighters were treated at the scene for minor injuries.

Andre Kok, chief of Cannon’s Public Affairs Office, said on Wednesday that grass fires at the bombing range are not unusual. He said he did not know how often they occur, but that firefighters were always on duty when the range was being used for training as it was Wednesday.

Kok said several precautions are taken in order to prevent fires, including keeping the areas around targets clear of debris, grass and weeds.