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Heartbreaking setback

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Local vet’s home destroyed by fire

By Mercy Lopez

Filadelfio “Phil” Rubio, who fought in both World War II and the Korean War, is now having to pick up the pieces of his shattered life.

Rubio, a gentle-mannered 90-year-old, lost his home to a fire in the early morning hours of Dec. 8. His home, located on Romero Street on the city’s west side, is a complete loss.

The fire remains under investigation, but authorities suspect that it was an electrical fire, according to Las Vegas Fire Chief Philip Mares.

The home has been in Rubio’s family for more than a century. While most of his possessions have been reduced to ashes, Rubio still remains positive despite the unknown that lies ahead.

Rubio’s three bedroom home belonged to his parents and his grandparents prior to him inheriting it. Rubio worked for years at Montgomery Ward and as a custodian at New Mexico Highlands University. But he has been retired and on a fixed income for some time, and he says he just couldn’t afford insurance for the home.

“I remember when my parents and my grandparents lived here,” Rubio said while looking at the home during an interview at the property on Friday morning. “They lived here and then I did.”

But despite losing his lifelong home, Rubio is grateful to be alive and is looking forward to the Christmas holiday with his great-niece Viola Ortiz and niece Dolores Rubio.

Filadelfio Rubio normally stays in the home by himself, but the evening before the fire the electricity in his home went off just before Ortiz dropped off his dinner.

Ortiz questioned why the electricity was off and offered to take Rubio to her house, but he initially declined. Ortiz headed home, while Rubio stayed at his house enjoying Ortiz’s homemade dinner. A couple of hours passed and Ortiz and her husband remained concerned about Rubio due to the cold weather. Ortiz returned to Rubio’s house, and he finally agreed to go with her for the night, a decision that likely saved Rubio’s life.

“I finally decided to just go and pick him up,” Ortiz said. “I did not want him to freeze if it got really cold. My uncle that lives behind the house called asking where my uncle was around 4:30 in the morning. That’s when he told me his house was on fire.”

Ortiz said she returned to the home while it was still in flames, watching as the city of Las Vegas Fire Department worked tirelessly to put out the flames that were seen coming from the attic.

“You could just see the flames and the firefighters were trying very hard to put it out,” Ortiz said. “It took them awhile to put it out.”

She said the firefighters needed to open holes to access the fire that was burning between the roof and the ceiling.

“The house used to have high ceilings, so my dad put a second ceiling in,” Rubio said. “That’s where the fire was burning.”

Due to his age, Rubio has a hard time walking, and his bedroom was located toward the middle of the burned home.

Everyone agrees that he was lucky he was not home when the blaze broke out.

“There was a lot of smoke, and I don’t think he would have made it out if he had stayed here that night,” Ortiz said. “Even if he would have made it, out he probably would have gotten smoke inhalation – that’s if he got out.”

Despite the adobe walls being up on the outside, the inside is full of burned rubble with parts of the roof sitting on a kitchen table, a bed covered in burned out ceiling, and flooring that remains soaked.

“The fire pretty much ruined everything,” Rubio said. “It is a complete loss.”

Rubio said he is not sure what he will do next. For now he is focused on celebrating Christmas with his loved ones. He is currently residing with Ortiz and her family for a week and then a week with her mother, Dolores and her family. Juan Rubio another nephew also helps take care of Rubio.

The family is unsure whether they will rebuild or repair the burned out home.

“When I was a kid, he always took care of me, even picking me up from school or to take me to school, and he never had a problem with it,” Ortiz said. “So, now that I can, I help take care of him.”

Ortiz said the family was able to salvage some of his clothing, but is in need of donations. An account has been set-up at State Employees Credit Union under Phil Rubio.