Explosion Kills Fire Chief
Explosion kills fire chief; razes firehouse he helped create
Posted: Feb 20, 2008 01:48 AM EST
Brazos Canyon VFD official Web site
Earlier coverage at KRQE.com
BRAZOS, N. M. (KRQE) - A northern New Mexico community is devastated tonight after its long-serving fire chief died in an explosion that destroyed the fire station he helped to establish.
The afternoon blast that razed the Brazos Canyon Volunteer Fire Department killed Michael Hays who had recently retired as fire chief. He was the only person at the station and apparently had just stopped in to pick up the mail.
Investigators who got a quick look at the scene before sunset are waiting for daylight to start their investigation into the deadly explosion.
The blast hit around noon blowing out walls and the roof. Only the steel skeleton of the building remained standing.
Hays was in his 60s and leaves behind a wife, children and grandchildren. A community leader, he was the driving force behind the development of the volunteer fire department serving the rural area between Tierra Amarilla and Chama in Rio Arriba County.
"A force for good," Brazos Canyon firefighter Randy Bevis said as he struggled to keep his emotions in check. "He built the department from basically nothing.
"He was a great father and we're going to miss him. He would have wanted us to carry on and that's what we're going to do."
Because of the remoteness of the area, an investigator from the state Fire Marshal's Office did not reach the scene until dusk leaving time only for a quick walk around before night fell.
Investigators with Rio Arriba County and the state said they will begin their investigation at 9 a.m.
Initial suspicion for the source of the explosion fell on leaking propane, a fuel many homes and businesses in the area keep in storage tanks to use for heating.
It was not immediately known how much of the department's fire apparatus was damaged in the blast nor what other department's in the region may be doing to provide fire protection for the Brazos Canyon area.
Rest in Peace, Chief Hays. :(