A Los Lunas man has been left homeless after his house was set on fire last week.
Warren Gabaldon was on his way home from work early Saturday morning when he could see his house engulfed in flames. A relative was at home. The house, on Lluvin, off NM 6, was under construction and was nearly completed, he said.
Valencia County Fire Marshal John Cherry said the fire, which destroyed the home, started around 2:30 a.m. A self-contained trailer parked on the side of the house was also destroyed by the fire.
“We’re still a little uncertain about how it started,” Cherry said. “We do know the (relative) … started the fire, but we’re not exactly sure how.”
According to Cherry, Gabaldon’s 36-year-old relative was working on an engine inside the house when the fire started. “He was apparently using gasoline to clean the engine,” he said.
Because of the man’s diagnosed mental illness, Gabaldon had been his designated caregiver for the past two years. The 20-year-old Los Lunas High School graduate said he knew his relative’s illness was getting worse, but never thought he was a real danger.
“When I saw that the house was on fire, all I wanted to do was to see if (he) … was all right,” Gabaldon said. “He’s been diagnosed with schizophrenia and dementia.”
Gabaldon’s father, Andy, said he’s still not sure how the fire started, even after talking to the relative. “He’s told us so many stories and that 20 different people started the fire,” he said. “So we’re not sure how he started it, but we do know he needs help.”
While firefighters were putting out the flames, Gabaldon took the relative to the University of New Mexico Mental Health facility, where he is currently being treated. The family is worried about him and says he needs more intense treatment.
Andy Gabaldon said the man’s illness has progressed over the past few years and has been treated numerous times.
Cherry said he’s aware of the illness and hasn’t made a decision if he’ll charge him with arson. “The only way we would charge him with arson is if it would enhance his commitment,” he said.
In the meantime, Gabaldon, who didn’t have insurance on the house, has moved in with his parents with nothing but the clothes on his back and his vehicle. The American Red Cross has given him a voucher to replace his clothing and offered him one month’s free rent.
“It still is hard,” Warren Gabaldon said. “I don’t have anything. I want to rebuild my house, but it’s going to be very hard to start all over.”
A donation account (No. 3100448) has been set up for Gabaldon at Ranchers Bank branches, in Belen, Los Lunas, Valencia and Rio Communities.
Grants, Moriarity, Edgewood and two locations in Albuquerque.
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.