Belen firefighters work on putting out a fire that started at a house on South Seventh Street and moved to a travel trailer on the property.
Clara Garcia | News-Bulletin photo

BELEN—No one was hurt but a fire that started in a vacant house in Belen made its way to a travel trailer, which has been burnt twice before.

Firefighters were called out to the fire on the afternoon of Wednesday, July 1, where they found a house on South Seventh Street on fire. By the time firefighters got to the scene, the wind had carried flames to the already-charred trailer located to the south of the house.

Belen Fire Chief Bret Ruff said both the house and travel trailer were on fire when they arrived.

“The house had been boarded up by the owner, but there have been squatters in there for some time,” Ruff said. “(The fire) originated in one of the front rooms on a sofa.

“There was a little bit of furniture in the house, such as two mattresses. We don’t know if it was left by the owner or if the squatters had brought them in.”

The fire chief said there was significant damage to both the house and the travel trailer, which had been burned twice before.

“There was no accelerants used to start the fire, so it wasn’t deliberate or intentional,” Ruff said. “It could have been just a cigarette on the sofa where it got left. That’s how we’re suspecting it got started.”

Ruff said he believes the fire was human caused, but it was accidental. He also said there was significant damage to the house, including to the joists, rafters and walls.

“Last year when we put a fire out in the RV, we asked for it to be removed by the property owner, but it hadn’t been removed,” Ruff said. “Someone had been staying in it for a couple of years. I thought after the first fire, she wouldn’t come back. This time we cut the whole side of it out to get the fire put out. We made that more inhabitable.”

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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.