LOS CHAVEZ, N.M. (KRQE) - A fire bug appears to be targeting a small New Mexico town and it looks like he may be getting bolder.
That fire bug may have cost a small business owner in Valencia County tens of thousands of dollars, and they aren't the only ones who have been hit.
Early Monday morning, smoke poured from a metal barn in Los Chavez.
“It was very, very involved,” Valencia County Fire Chief Steven Gonzales said. “It was an intense fire.”
It was a blaze that took firefighters from across Valencia County almost eight hours to get under control.
“He had about 2,000 bales of older hay in this hay barn right here behind us,” said Carolyn Mendoza, daughter of the owner of Toby's Doors which was also affected by the fire.
Carrying a price tag of about $10, 000, that hay is now destroyed and Mendoza's father, Toby Cordova, is concerned about his business.
“He's worked his whole life for this and he's been here 40 years and to see some of this go up in smoke is tough,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza guesses at least a thousand metal doors, which were laying near the barn, were also lost in Monday's fire.
“It’s devastating,” Mendoza said. “We got a lot orders yesterday that we can’t fulfill anymore and so our business is stopped to a certain degree.”
The family is trying to figure out how this all happened and they can't help but think a fire bug is to blame.
“We had an incident back in June that we actually caught on our surveillance cameras,” Mendoza said.
Surveillance images show two shadowy figures on the property on June 16, when someone set fire to a set of pallets near the road.
Chief Gonzales says they have investigated a series of suspicious fires in the Los Chavez area over the last few months, everything from trailers and sheds, to dumpsters and a car.
In this case, they haven't ruled anything out.
“Usually, hay fires in our area are spontaneous combustion,” Gonzales said. “There has been question about a fire bug running around the Los Chavez area, however unconfirmed at this time.”
Mendoza says they're still adding up the costs, worried that if there is a fire bug, where will the suspect or suspects strike next?
“Hopefully, if it was someone who came to do this intentionally, that they'll be caught and people will have their eyes open and their ears open,” Mendoza said.
The family is no stranger to fires. They lost everything in an accidental fire back in 1994.
Chief Gonzales says had crews arrived at Monday's fire scene just 15 to 20 minutes later, the whole business would've gone up in flames.
The Valencia County Fire Marshal is continuing to investigate.
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