Cause of fire remains under investigation

Noel Lyn Smith

FARMINGTON — Authorities are continuing to investigate what caused a fire Tuesday night at the Villa View Apartments, as well as investigating the cause of death for a man found in one of the apartments.

Farmington police spokeswoman Georgette Allen said today the man was found dead after fire crews extinguished the fire.

The cause of death is under investigation, and the man's identity has not been released pending family notification, Allen said.

Farmington Fire Department Marshal Brandy Vega said today the cause of the blaze is undetermined and remains under investigation.

Volunteers from the American Red Cross were helping residents today at the two-story apartment complex, located at 905 Walnut Drive. Amanda Kibel, regional disaster work force engagement manager for the Red Cross, said the organization is offering assistance through its disaster services and has connected with 13 families.

"We're providing them with immediate emergency assistance so they can get a temporary place to stay," Kibel said, adding that personnel will follow up with residents to make sure the recovery process goes smoothly.

Residents remove their belongings from their apartment Wednesday at the Villa View Apartments in Farmington.

Kibel said people may donate to the Red Cross disaster services, which helps in addressing these types of situations, at

Apartment owner Doug Jacober, who declined to comment, was also at the scene today.

William Pfaff has lived in the complex for a year and is among those now staying at the Journey Inn Motel at 317 Airport Drive. Pfaff said he was watching television in his living room when he heard noises and thought an altercation was taking place in one of the apartments.

"I heard glass breaking, heard people yelling, 'Call 911, call 911.' That's when I looked out my door and I saw a couple of guys," Pfaff said.

He said the two men attempted to control the fire with a fire extinguisher.

Plywood covers the doors of burned units at the Villa View Apartments in Farmington on Wednesday..

Pfaff, who served as a field medic in the Navy during Desert Storm, said he knew the deceased man and attempted to enter his apartment to rescue the occupant.

"But the fire was way too bad and too intense," he said.

"I looked out for him," Pfaff said adding the man was "very quiet" and preferred to be left alone.

Another resident, Allen Werito, was not home when the fire started but saw smoke while driving on a nearby street.

"When I got here, I drove my truck down to the intersection, then ran up. That's when I saw the whole chaos," Werito said.

Leann Charlie, a Red Cross disaster relief captain, left, and Amanda Kibel, the regional disaster work force engagement manager for the agency, provide assistance to resident Allen Werito and his family on Wednesday at the Villa View Apartments in Farmington.

Werito also knew the deceased resident.

"He was a sweet man. I liked him. He was a good man to talk to," Werito said adding he last spoke to the man on Tuesday afternoon.

"I'm sad about losing a good friend," he said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.