SAN MIGUEL COUNTY, N.M. (KRQE) – One man escaped flames within a matter of minutes. He is now trying to pick up the pieces and figure out what to do next after losing his home to the Las Tusas fire in San Miguel County.
“I lost everything. Just absolutely everything,” said 85-year-old Juan Valerio, who lost his home to the Las Tusas Fire.
Valerio lived in his home, just 15 miles from Las Vegas, for about 12 years. Now, almost everything he had is gone.
On the night of May 10, Valerio said flames from the Las Tusas fire blazed straight through his property, taking his home with it.
“The firefighters were there already, but I hadn’t seen the fire until I opened the door, and I could see the fire burning the trees about 50 yards from where I live. I knew I had to get out of there,” said Valerio.
The trailer he lived in and the sheds on his land didn’t make it. Although he was able to get his two, beloved cats into his van, all of his family photos and other irreplaceable items are history.
Valerio mentioned, “I had about five minutes to pack up and leave which is very little. I had my cats, the cat box, a few essentials, and important papers. I left a lot of stuff there. It just went up in flames.”
Driving out of the area was traumatizing. He added he and his neighbors were lucky to escape due to the intense smoke covering the road.
Valerio thought he was in the clear, after making it through the Hermits Peak Calf Canyon fire last year.
“I didn’t think it was going to happen to me the second time. I figured I escaped the first one, and here I am with the second one,” Valerio added.
Right now, he is focused on getting a roof over his head. Currently, he lives in his van and a local motel with his cats.
Community members helped pay for Valerio’s hotel stay and put together a GoFundMe. They hope to get him a new travel trailer.