AZTEC — Officials are still investigating the cause of a fire that burned a two-story house to the ground more than a week ago. At 9:11 p.m. on Jan. 31, firefighters were called to an unoccupied two-story house in flames at 301 Santistevans Lane near McCoy Elementary.
The 3,644-square-foot house on 5.8 acres near the Animas River was deemed a total loss because of the fire, and the cause of the blaze has yet to be determined, officials said.
"No one was living there and haven't for some time. The house was unfinished, but it's a total loss," Aztec Fire Chief Kevin Simpson said.
"It's been unoccupied and is considered very suspicious, but due to the damage we couldn't pinpoint a cause. It may have started in the basement, but at this point, we don't know," Simpson said.
Eight trucks, including four water tankers, responded to the fire. Firefighters extinguished the blaze shortly before 4 a.m. Feb. 1, Simpson added.
Sometime after firefighters began battling the flames, it began to snow, which Simpson said masked possible physical evidence, such as footprint tracks, that now are impossible to recover.
"When we left the scene about 4 a.m., it was still smoldering, with three or four inches of snow on the ground," he said.
The riverside property along a bend in the Animas was in the process of being sold to Johnny Salazar, who was building the home on the property. Salazar has been living in California for more than a year, Simpson said.
"Both Mr. Salazar and the landowners all live out of town," Simpson said.
According to officials, charred cinders, twisted metal in the basement, a basketball hoop backstop and a trampoline are just about all that remains of the house.
Both Salazar and members of the family could not be reached for comment by press time.
A neighbor, Pauline Pao, said some neighbors entered the home before the fire to meet the owner, but no one was home.
"The doors were unlocked and some neighbors went in," she said. "They said it was a nice place, but no one was living there."
Simpson said due to the lack of evidence, authorities haven't determined a cause for the blaze.
"There's really no reason for it to burn," Simpson said. "It's undetermined at this time. We're listing it as suspicious, but unless we find a witness or anyone with information, we'll keep it open, but it's a cold case at this point."
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Aztec Police Department at 505-334-6622.
James Fenton covers Aztec and Bloomfield for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4631 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @fentondt on Twitter.