By Carlos Padilla
Just before 4:45 a.m., Saturday, May 5, Las Palomas firefighters responded to a two-story building on fire between Las Palomas and Williamsburg.
Las Palomas Fire Department officials told The Herald that the building, constructed of heavy stucco on the exterior with a wood frame encased in metal, is located near Milepost 33 on the east side of State Highway 187.
Firefighters from Williamsburg, Elephant Butte, Caballo and Arrey districts were dispatched to the scene to assist Las Palomas firefighters with the extremely hot fire burning the former saloon and dancehall.
Witnesses reported that there was a lot of fire at the scene at 4:30 a.m., and arguments were heard in the area between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m.
Officials stated that the blaze had at least a 45-minute free burn time before the fire was reported, and the structure was fully engulfed in flames upon their arrival.
Investigators with the Sierra County Sheriff’s Office and New Mexico State Fire Marshal’s Office were requested by fire personnel, as the source of the fire was deemed “suspicious.”
While firefighters battled to bring the blaze under control, the second story of the building collapsed onto the first floor. Fortunately, there were no injuries.
Hours later, as the festivities were underway for the Truth or Consequences Fiesta some five miles northeast of the blaze, those attending the parade commented on the smoke over the city.
Las Palomas firefighters were on scene for 11 hours, and the building was smoldering into the following day.
Between all of the departments, an estimated 41,500 gallons of water was used in the operation before firefighters left the scene.
It was reported that no one was living in the building, however, there was electric running to the property. Fire officials told The Herald that there are two owners of the building living in California.
The source of the fire is still under investigation.