Fire guts Big Valley Ford

Freedom New Mexico: Argen Duncan Police Capt. Lonnie Berry said the fire appeared to have started in the attic area. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

By Argen Duncan: Freedom New Mexico

In the second major structure fire in Portales in a week, the roof of Big Valley Ford’s repair shop burned Friday evening.

The blaze forced the evacuation of the Town and Country convenience store next door, but no one was injured and no vehicles were damaged, according to officials.

Portales Police Capt. Lonnie Berry said there was no evidence of arson or any connection to the blaze that destroyed Dollar General and a Trader Horn’s True Value Hardware warehouse at last Friday.

“There’s no way they’re connected,” he said.

Berry said dispatch received the fire report at 6:15 p.m., and firefighters had the blaze under control by about 8 p.m. The fire appeared to have started in the attic area of the repair shop, Berry said, but he didn’t know the cause.

As of about 8:45 p.m. Friday, Berry said he hadn’t been inside the building, but it looked like firefighters contained the blaze to the shop.

Police secured the scene until the state fire marshal could inspect it Saturday.

“We don’t know anything,” Big Valley owner Alva Carter Jr. said Friday night.

Authorities wouldn’t allow Carter into the building, and he had no damage estimate. Carter said he would call his insurance company when the business opened Monday morning. At that time, he also planned to “get back to selling cars.”

Portales, Dora, Arch and Clovis fire departments helped battle the blaze, and Portales police stopped traffic on U.S. 70 and several smaller roads in the area. Roads were reopened shortly after the fire was contained.

During the fire, about 30 Big Valley employees hurried to move vehicles from the parking lot directly in front of the building to prevent damage to the cars and give fire trucks more room. They set off panic alarms to determine which car went with which set of keys and sometimes pulled vehicles over the curb to move them across the street or to the adjacent lot.

The Town and Country convenience store was evacuated from about 6:15 p.m. until about 8 p.m., said employee Andres Carbajal. He said he wasn’t worried about the store burning because the fire seemed contained to the Big Valley roof.

“It wasn’t really spreading,” he said.

Carbajal said the store reopened after employees were allowed to return to the store. He said the general manager ordered employees to throw away all of the deli food because smoke had gotten into the building.