Belen

A Belen business was destroyed Thursday night when flames ripped through the building located on the corner of Dalies and Seventh Street.

Firefighters were dispatched to a report of flames at Belen Consumer Finance just after 10 p.m. Thursday, and, when they arrived on scene, they found the back of the building totality engulfed. Belen Fire Chief Wayne Gallegos said a railroad police officer alerted dispatch to the fire when he passed by and saw flames coming out of the old wooden roof.

“When we got here, there were live power lines down, and the whole back side of the building was already up in flames,” Gallegos said Thursday night. “We couldn’t put it out at first because the gas line was feeding the fire.”

As firefighters began their tactical assault on the fire, they found the melted gas meter and were able to turn off the gas. With help from the winds, the fire traveled south through the building causing the roof, the back carport and the patio to cave in.

As soon as the gas was turned off, fire fighters were able to begin dousing the flame that were shooting out of the flat wooden roof, the windows and west-side door.

It took firefighters about half an hour to extinguish the fire.

“This was an old building made from either adobe or cement block,” Gallegos said. “But, like a lot of these old buildings, it had been cosmetically renovated with wood.”

Firefighters from Belen, Jarales and Los Chavez were able to limit the fire to Belen Consumer Finance. The adjoining business was left with only smoke damage, Gallegos said.

“We’re still looking into what may have caused this fire,” Gallegos said. “Right now, an investigator from PNM is involved, and we’re curious about the northeast side of the building. It was the hottest point, and we believe it was the point of origin.”

Gallegos said he will go through a process of elimination in his investigation to find the cause of the fire. After a walk through of the building, the fire chief said most of the documents in file cabinets were saved.

The owners of Belen Consumer Finance are Ismael “Smiley” Cordova and his wife, State Representative Kandy Cordova. The couple had just left for Colorado the morning of the fire.

Joe Cordova, the couple’s son and the manager of the business, said that when he called his parents in Colorado, they were shocked, saddened and alarmed.

“When I got the phone call, I jumped up and scrambled around to get what I thought I needed to bring with me,” Joe Cordova said. “When I got there, I knew I couldn’t do anything about it, and I was in a position of helplessness. I knew the Lord was in contro,l and I just gave the situation to the Lord.”

The Cordova’s have owned Belen Consumer Finance for the past 15 years. Joe Cordova said the building was almost a complete loss, but, luckily, all of the records contained in files in an enclosed room were saved. The computer records, which were backed up on a daily basis, also were untouched.

“As soon as my parents return, we’re going to look for other office space, to relocate,” Joe Cordova said. “We intend to restore all customer information and, hopefully, be back in business in a few days.”

Cordova said he wants to thank Belen Consumer Finance’s customers for their patience during this time.

Customers can mail in their payments to P.O. Box 603 in Belen or for any information or loan requests, call the regular office number, 864-1905.

The voice-mail system is still in operation and the business will be operating by phone until they can relocate to another office.

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Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin, as well as the executive editor of El Defensor Chieftain, the News-Bulletin's sister paper in Socorro.
Clara 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.