Adelante’s Bargain Square in Belen damaged by late-night fire Sunday

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A late-night fire damaged a well-known thrift store in Belen Sunday, but the non-profit owners hope to reopen as soon as they can.

Firefighters were called to Adelante’s Bargain Square on Reinken Avenue about 11:40 p.m. Sunday. Belen Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief Nathan Godfrey said when crew first arrived on the scene, they saw flames in a fenced-in area and in the attic space of the pitched roof.

Clara Garcia-News-Bulletin photo: Belen Firefighter damian Rivera puts out a small hot spot Tuesday afternoon from a fire that damaged Adelante’s Bargain Square on Sunday night. The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.

“As soon as we got it under control, the rest of the night was just getting to the hot spots,” Godfrey said. “There’s a lot of smoke and water damage inside the building. We were able to contain it in the fenced-in area and the attic area.”

Godfrey said he isn’t sure how the fire started, but the state fire marshal’s office is investigating.

Fire crews from Valencia County Emergency Services, Los Chavez, Rio Grande Estates, Tomé/Adelino, Abeytas and Jarales/Pueblitos fire departments responded. Godfrey said no one was injured.

Jill Beets, vice president of marketing and communications for Adelante Development Centers, said the fire started shortly before midnight on Sunday on the east side of the building in an area known as the “bargain corral.”

The corral is enclosed by chain link fencing under the building’s roof. It is where larger pieces of furniture, building materials and other miscellaneous items for sale are kept.

“(The fire) torched that whole area and went up over the roof,” Beets said. “The fire department was able to save our truck by moving it away from the building. The firefighters did an awesome job. I can’t say enough.”

Beets said at one point there were seven fire trucks on scene and personnel were battling the blaze from the ground and the roof. Adelante staff were notified shortly after the blaze began, she said, and gas and electric to the building was turned off for safety.

Because the fire started so late at night, Beets said no one was in the building.

For now, the Belen store will be closed, she said, until the company can have someone assess the roof and structure for safety.

“Everything was just incinerated. It’s pretty incredible to look at. Our metal ceiling fans are melted like dead flowers,” she said. “The I beams are melted and warped. Until we figure things out, we caution people to stay well away.”

Most of Monday was spent calling the teams involved with the people with disabilities who work for the company, Beets said. Several employees were taken to the Los Lunas store to work.

In the coming weeks, Beets said transportation arrangements will be made to get employees to the Los Lunas store.

“(Tuesday) the entire team will be in Los Lunas. For the foreseeable future, we will arrange transportation for people who usually walk to work or have someone drop them off,” she said. “We are also asking people to continue shopping at and donating to the Los Lunas store.

“We will have almost three times the people there so we need a ton of donations and shoppers to keep everyone busy.”

Because Adelante hires people with disabilities and special needs, Beets wanted families of those clients and community members to know that as soon as they were able to enter the building, they removed all the client case files from the premises.

“All the computers and paper files were taken out of the store and transported to a secure site in Belen immediately,” she said. “Anything that would identify people with disabilities was secured.”

Even on Monday, with the store closed, Beets said community members came to donate items and to just show support for the business.

“People brought us water. They were so sweet. The owner of Pete’s Cafe donated $900 to help us get open again,” she said.

“The support of the community has been so wonderful. People really have a heart for what we do. So many people really care. We will do our very best to get reopened as soon as possible.”

While the company waits to hear the cause of the fire and for the insurance company to make a determination, Beets said a security guard will be on site.

One hitch the store may encounter is with the insurance, she said. Most retail insurance claims are paid out on the value of the wholesale purchase price of the merchandise damaged or lost.

Because Adelante gets its stock through donations, Beets said she isn’t sure how the insurance company will value the lost merchandise.

“We need to rebuild and replace the merchandise lost to the fire,” she said. “Right now we don’t know the cost of the damages. Everything in the corral was lost and there was a lot of smoke and water damage to the rest of the store.

“We rarely turn a profit and it’s hard to make ends meet. We get the items we sell through donations but we still have to pay people to work here and our bills. This is really going to stretch that system thin.”