UPDATE-EXPLOSION IN NEW MEXICO FIREHOUSE KILLS FORMER FIRE CHIEF
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
(Chief Hays, who lost his life, is in the white shirt, red ball cap, second from the end on the right in front of the station where the tragic explosion occured) The former chief of a volunteer fire department in northern New Mexico has died in an explosion at the fire station. Rio Arriba County Sheriff Joe Mascarenas says Michael Hays was killed when the station exploded Tuesday. Hays had recently retired as chief of the Brazos Canyon Volunteer Fire Department.
Mascarenas said Hays was transferred by ambulance to a clinic in Tierra Amarilla, but "he didn’t make it." The cause of the blast wasn’t immediately clear. "We suspected there might have been a gas leak," Mascarenas said. "It just exploded."
The sheriff’s office responded to the blast. But Mascarenas said the investigation now is being handled by the fire marshal.
Hays, 64, was the backbone of the fire department and a reason the small village of about 40 people had the station, said Carol Schultz, a family friend of 25 years.
"He was very devoted to the community," she said.
The retired Navy serviceman had spent most days at the fire station and retired Saturday after nine yearsâ€”most of those as chief, Schultz said.
Hays and his wife of 42 years, Mona, who also was an emergency responder, had been planning to move to be closer to their four grandchildren. One of their two daughters lives in Houston and the other in Washington state, Schultz said.
Schultz wasn’t sure why Hays had went to the fire station Tuesday, but it could have been a habit for a man she says spent most days there.
"I can’t remember a day he wasn’t (there) unless he was out of town," she said.
Marti Griego, director of the 911 center for Rio Arriba County, said her staff received several calls about the blast. The first came in at 12:13 p.m.
"We knew something was very wrong," she said. "We could hear it in their voices. It was one of our own that we had to take care of."
Griego said dispatchers asked if anyone else had been in the station at the time of the blast, and they were told Hays was the only one. The fire station is in a rural area surrounded by cabins and trees. Griego said there was concern that the fire might spread throughout the wooded area. "Thank God it didn’t," she said. Griego had attended meetings with Hays over the years and said he spent a lot of time at the fire station.
Just last year, Hays invited Griego and her staff to tour the fairly new fire station because Hays wanted to make sure that dispatchers knew the area in case they had to send emergency responders there, she said. "He was just a very kind and wonderful man who devoted his life to the fire department, and he’s going to be missed," she said.
By FELICIA FONSECA Associated Press Writer
Article Launched: 02/19/2008 05:54:24 PM MST
this is from www.firefighterclosecalls.com
there are also pics of the chief and his crew in the article if anybody is interested
in this article are pictures of the scene after the explosion