Fire ravages fertilizer plant

LOVING — A fire scorched multiple buildings at a Loving fertilizer plant late Monday evening, causing a drop in water pressure for village residents as firefighters attempted to quench the blaze.

Initial injuries were not known, said Joel Arnwine, Eddy County’s emergency preparedness manager and fire administrator. But an Otis volunteer firefighter had to leave the scene because exhaustion, officials said.

Fire officials received initial calls about the blaze at the Questa Fertilizer facility at 6:45 p.m. The fire appeared to have originated in a storage area where farm supplies such as baling wire are stored, according to officials on the scene. Eddy County Sheriff’s Deputy Johnny Davis told reporters at the scene that the fire may have originated from a cotton gin near the plant. Arnwine said the fire appeared to have started in a storage building on the east side of the facility. He says neither fertilizer nor cotton were stored in those storage buildings. By 9:40 p.m., with the blaze nearing containment, firefighters redirected their efforts so the flames wouldn’t reach the fertilizer stored in another building.

A cause of fire is unknown at the time, officials said.

Loving Mayor Pete Estrada said residents’ water pressure levels were dropping, and dispatchers were calling in additional water tankers from around the county. County Commissioner Susan Crockett said groundwater in the area where the fire occurred was limited to begin with.

“It’s not really a high level of water pressure,” Crockett said. “When the tables are like that, it’s hard for us to pull water from it. So we are sending some tanker trucks from other volunteer departments.”

Ben Gibson/Current-Argus Firefighters direct spray toward the blaze at a fertilizer plant in Loving.

Carlsbad Fire Chief Rick Lopez said the mayor of Loving gave fire officials direct access to well water, bypassing the village and cutting off water supply. Firefighters were worried about the gusty wind, he said.

Crockett added that officials asked for additional help from volunteer firefighters from the southern part of the county. She also said Lopez was on the scene to assess the fire’s activity.

Volunteer firefighters from Loving, Otis, Malaga, Joel and La Huerta responded to the scene. State Highway 285 South was closed for most of the evening due to the fire, and county sheriff’s deputies were redirecting traffic for much of the night.

Questa Fertilizer is owned by brothers Henry and David McDonald, according to Eddy County Commissioner Jack Volpato. The plant was closed for the night at the time of the fire.

Volpato said the brothers have operated the plant for more than 20 years. He added that the plant also had a storage facility full of antiques.

“I just hope nobody that was hurt,” he said. “It’s very unfortunate that this had to happen. I feel sorry for their loss. They’ve been a part of the community for years and have been very important to the farming industry here.”

via Fire ravages Loving fertilizer plant – Carlsbad Current-Argus.

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