A 30-year-old Los Lunas man was arrested Friday after a bedroom in the house in which he was living was destroyed by a fire the day before.
George Romero Jr. has been charged with trafficking a controlled substance with intent to manufacture and distribute a controlled substance. Valencia County Sheriff’s Detective Rene Rivera said he suspects the fire was caused by one of three working methamphetamine labs inside the house at 16 Bluehill Road in Los Lunas.
Valencia County Fire Marshal John Cherry said firefighters were called to the residence at 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 20, in reference to a fire. He said that, when firefighters arrived on scene, they found the blaze was contained to one bedroom of the house.
“We released the scene to the sheriff’s department after we found suspected ingredients for making meth inside the house,” Cherry said. “We found out that the owner of the house had been deceased for about a year, but we found evidence that someone had been living there. We found electricity was being brought in via extension cords.”
Rivera said that, when he arrived on scene, he did a quick walk-through of the house, where he noticed items and chemicals that made him believe there was a possible methamphetamine lab. While at the scene on Bluehill Road, witnesses told the detective they saw two males running from the house when the fire started.
The detective and several other deputies remained on scene overnight, until a search warrant could be obtained to search the remainder of the house.
“While searching the residence on Friday morning, we found that there appeared to be three different meth labs inside the residence,” Rivera said. “Two in different bedrooms and one in a hallway.”
Agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration were called in for assistance to examine the chemicals and clean up the chemical waste and contaminated, hazardous material found in the house.
After the crew had removed the chemicals and other paraphernalia from the house and were getting ready to leave, Rivera said, Romero returned to the house and turned himself in. The detective said that, after interviewing Romero, he believes Romero had just returned to the house Thursday afternoon when he heard a small explosion coming from a bedroom.
The other male subject in the house, who was in the bedroom where the explosion occurred, left the room shortly after the fire started, Rivera said.
“They attempted to extinguish the fire and called 911,” the detective said. “As soon as the fire department arrived, they left the scene.”
Rivera said he is still trying to locate the other individual who was inside the house at the time of the fire.
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.