SHIPROCK, N.M. (KRQE) - Years after a low-income housing project in northern New Mexico collapsed and left dozens of unfinished homes behind, the project is now facing another big problem: A possible firebug.
Several of the vacant homes in the subdivision have recently burned down. Witnesses believe someone set the fires intentionally and they’re worried it will keep happening.
One man who witnessed the fires and wants to remain anonymous said the site was disturbing.
“It was kind of scary, you know? Because you see all of the flames you know, and lucky nobody got hurt there,” said the witness.
The witness says three vacant homes have burned down in the South Shiprock subdivision on Thursday and Friday. He believes the fires were set on purpose.
“Because there's … I mean there's no power, electric or anything to those houses, and you know that somebody started them,” said the witness.
The witness says the fire was Thursday night, leaving a smoking pile behind Friday afternoon. That’s when he noticed some debris reigniting, then called police.
“Not even about five minutes later, you see the smoke coming from those two houses that were burning,” said the witness.
The three homes are now totally destroyed, according to the witness.
“There were neighbors outside just looking you know, I mean, some of them looked like they were terrified, you know, they can't believe this was happening,” said the witness.
It’s cause for concern for the few people who live in the South Shiprock subdivision, where problems can be spotted on Google Maps. Many of the houses in the subdivision are vacant with broken windows and graffiti covering the exteriors.
The Nevada developer behind it stopped work on about 90 homes there in 2006 after going bankrupt. Last month, that developer was convicted in federal court for embezzling money meant for the homes.
Now, Christian Bigwater, spokesperson for the project coordinator Navajo Housing Authority, says the problems needs to be fixed.
“Our goal is to complete these houses,” said Bigwater.
The 91 vacant homes will be torn down and rebuilt. It’s a long process the authority is hoping finishes soon.
“An immediate need of 34,000 homes across the 110 chapters all across the Navajo Nation ... The need is great,” said Bigwater.
The process of rebuilding those homes will take several years. Right now, crews are in the surveying phase before demolishing them. Navajo Nation Police dispatchers confirmed the fires with News 13 on Friday, however, calls to Shiprock area police officers and firefighters about any possible investigation were not returned Saturday.
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