ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) — A huge fire in east downtown Albuquerque could be seen for miles as a vacant 120-year-old home in an historic neighborhood went up in flames. It’s being investigated as arson. News 13 spoke with the homeowner and neighbors about the problems the home has attracted.

Albuquerque Fire Rescue crews responded to a structure fire near downtown Albuquerque in the area of Gold and High St.

Crews responded to the call for service shortly after 6:00 a.m. The house, according to the neighbors, was abandoned. The building was a two-story residence, and the second floor of the building collapsed at around 6:30 a.m. 16 AFR units responded to the call with 45 personnel working to put the flames out.

All that’s left of the building is rubble, and people in the area say this is just the latest in a string of fires plaguing the neighborhood.

It was not the morning wake-up call John Gallegos, who has lived next door for 33 years, was expecting. “This morning, I woke up because I heard some metal clanging and I didn’t understand what that was. But we have so much trouble with this building here that I thought somebody had gotten over the fence again,” Gallegos says, “So I looked out and when I looked out, the entire window in my bedroom was bright orange. And it’s the brightest orange I’ve ever seen so I went to the window, and you could feel the heat just coming through the window.”

Lieutenant Jason Fejer, public information officer for Albuquerque Fire Rescue (AFR), says Engine One responded to the scene: “This was a big hot fire. When they got on scene, they went defensive pretty quickly and started working on exposure control.”

“The flames were at least 30 feet up in the air. And that’s when I saw smoke coming from my attic,” Gallegos says. Crews put the fire out, but the inferno collapsed his attic and study and broke out his windows. Gallegos says the vacant property on High Street just off Central has been a problem for the neighborhood for more than a decade.

“There have been at least four different fires here that I’m aware of. I called the fire department on at least three of those occasions to let them know and they have come out promptly and turned them off. But this was the biggest fire we’ve ever had here,” Gallegos says. He says he’s tried everything he can think of to get something done about it: “It’s very frustrating in that as a private citizen, how much can you do to protect your property? I did everything that I possibly could and there was I felt nothing else I could do. And so here we are.”

The owner of the property is a nonprofit organization called Homewise, say they were made aware of the property’s problems when they bought it, and tried to be as responsive as they could. “We have done everything we possibly can to keep it secure—a security company, different fencing, having people on site. It’s been really challenging to be here 24/7 which no agency can really do that. All we were able to do, very responsive any time we heard there was an issue to remedy that as quickly as possible,” says Elena Gonzales, chief operating officer of Homewise.

However, it’s not just this building: AFR says in the past six weeks they’ve responded to 39 calls for fires around this east downtown area. And neighbors believe it’s someone they think has been starting other fires in the area.

“That same person was seen running down the street as soon as the fire began by somebody that recognized him, the neighbors,” Gallegos says.

AFR says a suspect is being questioned; they say it’s a man named Sly Quincy Jones, who has been arrested for other fires in the east downtown area. He has not been charged in this case.

The non-profit that owns the once sprawling home won approval from the city a year and a half ago to convert it into multi-family housing. They were in the process of renovating the interior.

But now it’s back to square one: “We will honor what the neighborhood wants again and we will make sure and have this property come back stronger and better and get homeowners. We want residents to put their roots down and buy something,” Gonzales says.

AFR says they used defensive fire operations were initiated due to fire conditions and the fire jumping to the house next door, which crews were able to save. It took fire crews 34 minutes to put out the flames.

AFR says the origin and cause of the fire are still under investigation. No injuries were reported.