Crews respond to another fire at vacant Rio Rancho Jewish Center

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RIO RANCHO, N.M. –  The vacant Rio Rancho Jewish Center across from Haynes Park caught fire for the second time in under three months Sunday night.

The first fire occurred on Dec. 28, 2022. Rio Rancho Fire and Rescue told KOB crews were able to get it under control quickly, and based off surveillance video from across the street of a person leaving the vacant building before the fire began, they do not believe it was an accident.

“We were never able to determine exactly who caused it or what the actual cause was,” Battalion Chief of Training Ryan Floersheim said. “Our department worked with the city and the property owner to board it up the best that we could.”

Unfortunately, a second fire ravaged the building on March 5, causing parts of it to collapse. Floersheim said close to 20 firefighters worked to get the flames under control before they could jump to nearby homes or the Haynes community center.

“None of the nearby structures were threatened,” he added. “No one nearby was injured.”

Fire officials have not yet determined a cause for the second fire and cannot say whether it is connected to the one in December.

A man who lives across the street from the Rio Rancho Jewish Center, who did not want to go on camera, told KOB he witnessed both fires. He commended firefighters for putting them out so quickly but said he hopes the building is torn down before this happens again.

“The property owner has committed to fencing the property sometime this week, to again take proactive steps to make it as safe as we can,” Floersheim said. “The property owner’s already working on boarding up the building today.”

The investigations into both fires are ongoing.