Man dies in apartment fire

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By David Giuliani

A man perished in a fire early Saturday evening, but authorities have yet to identify him.

The fire was contained to one apartment in an eight-unit complex on Collins Drive, a couple of blocks north of the main fire station on Legion Drive. Firefighters arrived around 6:40 p.m.

Fire Chief Phillip Mares said the fire had been going for a while when his department showed up.  He said it’s possible it took a while for anyone to call because most people were at the annual Light Parade, which was just ending when firefighters got  the call.

“We were fortunate to bring that fire under control before it overtook the complex. Another minute or so, it could have gotten out of control,” Mares said.

He said the man was already dead when he was found in a bathroom in the one-bedroom apartment.

Mares referred further questions about the fire to the state Fire Marshal’s Office, which is investigating the blaze. But that agency’s investigators said only the agency’s spokesman could comment and that person didn’t return two calls on Monday.

The apartment complex, owned by a Wyoming man, has been evacuated and the utilities are likely turned off, Mares said. Some of the windows were boarded up by Monday morning; the complex reportedly suffered smoke damage.

Lou Ann Romero, a local Red Cross volunteer, said her group sought to help the complex’s residents find places to stay. A couple of the families, with the help of another local group, Samaritan House, went to a local motel, while others stayed with friends and family, she said.

“We usually address food, shelter and clothing needs,” Romero said. “We didn’t have to provide any shelter at this point. We are in the process of doing the paperwork for them to get food and clothing.”

Also responding to the fire were the Gallinas Volunteer Fire Department and the Police Department. Our Lady of Sorrows Church provided refreshments for firefighters.