Belen

NEWS-BULLETIN

A mobile home was destroyed Monday afternoon when a fire swept through the abandoned building, leaving only a charred pile of debris.

Valencia County Deputy Fire Marshal Charles Eaton said, “It looks like it was intentionally set. We found burn patterns on the floor, and it looked as if an accelerant was used.”

Firefighters were called out to the structure fire on the 900 block of Don Felipe around 5 p.m., but, when they got to the scene, they saw several people already trying to put out the fire.

Valencia County Lt. Gary Hall, who was driving on NM 314 at the time, said he saw the flames and called dispatch to alert them of the fire.

“I drove out here, and me and some other neighbors tried to put it out,” he said. “We picked up some shovels and tried to throw dirt on it. When I got here, it was fully engulfed. Fire was coming out from all the windows.”

A few minutes later, firefighters from Belen, Los Chavez and Jarales joined the fight to extinguish the fire. The battle to keep the fire from spreading to a nearby house came from three different directions.

Eaton said the fire spread quickly through the structure because the doors had been opened and all the windows had been broken out.

Two crews fought the fire from the north while another crew hosed down the south end of the structure. Firefighters were able to put out the blaze in about 20 minutes.

“There were no utilities connected to the house, and it had been abandoned for several years,” Eaton said. “We identified the house as being abandoned several weeks ago and contacted the mortgage company who owns it to do something about it.”

Eaton explained that when an abandoned home is burned, the fire marshal’s office tries to contact the owner of the home to help restrict access to the structure.

“We had been waiting for a response from the mortgage company when the fire occurred,” Eaton said. “In this case, we had found that the trailer had been vandalized and someone stolen virtually everything from the home.”

An abandoned and inoperable vehicle parked on the east side of the house sustained substantial damage during the fire.

Kimberly Myers, who lives next door to the mobile home, said she was at Wal-Mart when she saw the flames coming from the direction of her home.

“I saw the smoke and flames from Wal-Mart and I thought it was my house,” she said as she watched firefighters hose down the house. “I drove back home, and that’s when I saw all the fire trucks. I’m just glad it wasn’t my house.”

Myers said she moved to her home on Don Felipe last June. “Since I’ve been here, no one has ever lived there,” she said. “There have been a few people who would come around to look at it as recently as a few days ago.”

Eaton said the investigation into who set the fire is ongoing.

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Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.