FARMINGTON — A rental home in the 3700 block of Sunset Avenue caught fire just before noon on Monday.
The fire, which scorched the street-facing exterior wall and eaves of the home, lasted approximately 30 minutes. It started when wind fanned a fire set by resident Wayne Hislop as he attempted to burn clumps of half-foot-high cheat grass in the front yard.
His wife, Amanda Hislop, was inside the home at the time with the couple's two teenage daughters, whom she home-schools, when she heard her husband shouting from outside that the fire had spread to the house.
She called 911 and with her children tried to extinguish the flames by filling jugs and buckets full of water inside the home and carrying them outside to douse the shrub plants that line the west side of the home. The 1978 three-bedroom ranch house lacked a hookup in the yard for a hose and had only one smoke detector, located in the kitchen, but it was not working, Amanda Hislop said.
Five fire trucks and three support trucks responded five minutes later, just after noon, and Sunset Avenue, between West 35th and 38th Streets, was shut down temporarily while fire personnel extinguished the fire and inspected the interior of the home.
Besides some singed hair and rattled nerves, there were no injuries reported.
"The whole house filled with smoke and the garage a bit, too," Amanda Hislop said. "The wind just kicked up and it started burning the house, so we started filling up everything we had with water to try to put it out."
Winds in the area on Monday were high, at around 10 to 15 mph at the time of the incident and were expected to double by the end of the day, according to Farmington Fire Marshal Robert Popa.
The fire also spread quickly to the home because of small trees and shrubbery planted mere inches from the house's exterior wall. Like the Hislops' residence, as many as one in three homes in Farmington lack sufficient defensible space, the distance between vegetation and a structure, Popa said.
"It's unfortunate but the family's lucky. People see the green growing and assume we're okay, but the green vegetation burns. On a windy day like today, it could have been a lot worse. It varies year to year, but we average anywhere from two to 12 brush fires like this a season," Popa said at the scene. "People just aren't aware of the danger our climate poses and how at risk you are with vegetation grown too close to homes. That stuff is a tinder box."
Popa said anyone planning a controlled burn must first call the department for a free inspection to obtain a burn permit. Monday was a no-burn day citywide because of the high winds and dry conditions and no permits for burning were issued. The Hislops said they were unaware a permit was required.
Popa told the Hislops the department would return that day to install two fire detectors in the home, free of charge.
"I want to give credit to the fire department for their quick response. I am very impressed," Amanda Hislop said. "We know now we'll never do that again. We're going to pray about it and go on."
Burn permits can be obtained for free by contacting Farmington Fire Prevention Services at 505-599-1430.
James Fenton covers Aztec and Bloomfield for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4631 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @fentondt on Twitter.