ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A fire broke out in the area of Lomas and Yale near the University of New Mexico (UNM). Photos of the scene showed a large fire at an abandoned commercial property on the north end of the campus. Now, not much is left of the building.
Albuquerque Fire Rescue (AFR) went to work, ensuring the abandoned fraternity house on UNM’s campus off of Buena Vista and Mesa Vista didn’t reignite.
“Still with the collapse, with the pockets of fire, every time we shut down the water, it picks back up,” said Deputy Chief Jimmy Melek with Albuquerque Fire Rescue.
AFR responded just after 5:00 p.m. Monday, finding the three-story abandoned house engulfed in flames. In all, 17 AFR units arrived at the scene.
Flames and a thick cloud of smoke could be seen for miles. Despite the size, firefighters knocked down the fire before it spread to neighboring buildings. The fraternity house, though, was destroyed.
For years, the house has been a magnet for trouble. Those that frequent the area claimed it was a matter of time before the building caught fire.
The building sat fenced and boarded up for at least eight years. KRQE learned in September of a developer’s plans to take over the property and tear the house down.
“Yeah, I think it was eventually going to happen because I feel like they’re always in there. Right here. . . I always see people just chilling there, and obviously, you see the boards being moved,” said one local, referring to the homeless who have been known to take shelter in the building.
The plan was for a three-story, 35-unit student housing complex with electric vehicle charging stations, a yoga deck, and outdoor grills. Meanwhile, the frat house next door has also been vacant for years.
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Back in June, there was a fire there which AFR said was because of a homeless person living on the property. The property manager of that building says something like this was only a matter of time. “It was inevitable,” says Bill Dickey. “A lot of these houses over here have a lot of problems with homeless people that camp out in the houses. Our house was actually used as a meth lab in 2015 while it was empty.”
AFR is investigating what did lead to Monday’s fire. They said there was smoke damage to the building next door, but the fire itself was limited to the original building. No injuries were reported.
Earlier Monday evening, officials closed the intersection at Lomas and Yale but has since been reopened. Crews monitored the scene into the night.