Suspected arson fire investigated

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Belen police suspect arson was the cause of a fire that torched a mobile home Tuesday afternoon in Belen.

Neighbors called emergency personnel, who were stationed blocks away from where the incident occurred about 4:30 p.m. near Bernard Avenue and Third Street.

Brent Ruffner-News-Bulletin photo: A mobile home caught fire near Bernard Avenue and Third Street on Tuesday. Belen police suspect arson as the cause of the blaze. No arrests have been made.

People who live across the street in apartments and houses close by stood along chain link fence posts and could be seen talking about what may have happened as plumes of thick, black smoke filled the air.

The mobile home was fully engulfed as crews arrived on scene. After a few minutes, a few loud pops that sounded like gunshots went off as the building collapsed from what was apparently tires giving into excessive amounts of heat on the bottom of the structure.

Crews were able to contain the fire to the lot where the mobile and another travel trailer were located and move a few propane tanks that were located inside the trailer.

During the period where crews were fighting the fire, one man was detained and another questioned about the blaze after the incident.

Brent Ruffner-News-Bulletin photo: Fire crews douse the bottom of what once was a mobile home on Tuesday. Crews blocked off eastbound Bernard Avenue for about 45 minutes as fire personnel contained the blaze to a south lot where the mobile home and a travel trailer were located.

Belen Police Chief Dan Robb said arson is suspected since there was no electricity and no gas hooked up to the home.

Robb said the man who lived on the property has had an ongoing dispute with the property owner. The man, whose name was not released, was cited by the city of Belen for bringing the mobile onto the lot without a permit.

The police chief could not say whether there was anything found that may have accelerated the fire, but that “there were a lot of indicators” that the structure was intentionally set.

No arrests have been made in the case as of Friday afternoon.

Crews blocked off eastbound Bernard for about 45 minutes as personnel contained the fire.

The fire marks the third time in recent months where a structure has caught fire in the city of Belen. The other incidents haven’t been deemed as arsons by officials.

Robb said the circumstances of Tuesday’s fire is a rare occurrence.

“This is not a regular occurrence — (these incidents) happen infrequently,” Robb said. “This particular (incident), the circumstances were a little different. The suspected arson isn’t connected to anything we have had in the past.”

Erin Saiz, a resident in a nearby apartment, said she saw smoke and called for help. She was dumping trash when she noticed something was wrong.

“It all went up so fast,” Saiz said. “I called 911 when there was just (a little) smoke coming out.”

Another resident, Maria Nicholls, said she could smell smoke coming from an open window in her trailer. She said she came out to see black smoke and heard loud pops as the structure burned.

Nicholls said she hasn’t seen a fire like Tuesday’s incident since she moved into the mobile home at the beginning of the year.

“It was scary,” she said.


-- Email the author at bruffner@news-bulletin.com.