AFR extinguishes fire at vacant building for second time this month

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Albuquerque firefighters knocked out a fire at an abandoned UNM fraternity house Wednesday night, for the second time in less than a month.

A UNM student KOB 4 spoke to is part of the fraternity whose house is right next door. He says first he got a warning from police to stay inside, minutes before he saw them handcuff someone.

Jay Littles was hoping for a quiet Thanksgiving break in his fraternity house with his brothers.

“I didn’t wanna stay on campus so I’m just staying here with a couple of the boys that stayed,” said Littles. 

So a text from a friend about a fire next door, and the sight of police lights, caught him off guard.

“A police officer came down the street and was like ‘oh where you coming from’ and I told him I was coming from the house, and then he just told me to go inside,” Littles said. 

Where he still had a view of what was going on.

“So I look out the window a couple of minutes later, and they’re just arresting somebody on the property next door,” said Littles. 

We saw two people in handcuffs near the property. APD hasn’t confirmed officers arrested them, or plan to charge them with any crimes.

“Me seeing that I was like ‘oh okay well just another person trespassing like OK’ like yeah what do we expect to happen here,” Littles said. 

This is the same property that erupted in flames earlier this month. We talked to one of Little’s fraternity brothers with a clear view of the flames.

“So the first thing I did, is I grabbed him and was like, ‘yo, let’s grab my TV and my PS4,’ I was like, ‘let’s get out of here!’ I didn’t care about anything else. I just grabbed my PS4 and my TV, ran out here, looked all funny holding everything,” said Javier Roueda, UNM student. 

He showed us where they’ve spotted homeless spend time and cause problems on their property. 

“Right here is where the homeless people would stay at the most,” said Roueda. “They’ll throw rocks at our windows and stuff. Like, this window right here. It’s all cracked. It had a rock thrown at it.”

“To be honest I was just hoping the boys were okay, I was really worried for them, worried for their safety. They are my brothers after all and that was right next door, and it was pretty close,” said Littles. 

But no one left that fire in handcuffs.

“A lot of people could’ve gotten hurt. Luckily, nobody did,” Roueda said. 

After the first fire, KOB 4 requested the addresses of every vacant or abandoned property fire in Albuquerque going back to the fall before the pandemic. 

In all of 2020, there were only 29 vacant property fires in Albuquerque. That shot up to 52 last year, and this year we’ve already seen 50, with the busiest month of December still to come.