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A firefighter adjusts his partner’s oxygen tank as they walk toward the remaining crew working to extinguish a house fire Thursday afternoon. All pedestrian and media were restricted from coming within a block of the fire, due to propane tanks nearby.

Albuquerque Fire Department and Albuquerque Police Department respond to fire south of UNM

Dark brown smoke billowed into the sky from a fire at an Albuquerque home south of the University on Thursday afternoon.

Melissa Romero, the public information officer for the Albuquerque Fire Department, said that at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, AFD firefighters and officers from the Albuquerque Police Department responded to a 911 call about a fire at 2404 Garfield Ave. S.E. She said firefighters were able to keep the fire from spreading to a church on the east side of the home and other homes to the west.

“The call came in as a fully involved house fire, units arrived quickly to find a fully involved house fire, they did a great job at containing the fire to the home itself,” she said.

Romero said at the time of the fire that fire investigators were en-route to perform an investigation. She said the cause of the fire was unknown, but that no one was injured and the occupant was outside the home when the fire started.

House owner Bruce Pataky said police responded to the fire within 5 minutes but that he was unable to recover anything from inside the house.

Pataky said that when the incident happened, he was dismantling the house for renovations after it burned down for the first time three years ago due to a broken gas pipe. He said he ran to the bathroom to fetch water and to try to stop the fire, but that when he came back, the entire house was engulfed in flames.

“It was a construction site because I was rebuilding the house myself,” he said. “At first, I thought I could put it out. I was just about 25 feet before the bathroom. I ran back and the whole ceiling was down. It was not even 30 seconds.”

Pataky said the fire might have spread quickly because he had piles of plastic inside the house. He also said he had propane tanks inside, which might have further intensified the blaze.

Pataky, who will turn 63 on Saturday, said the house had been there for 85 years. He said that although he has a house in northern New Mexico, he had not yet found a place where he could spend Thursday night.

“I’ve never been a big holiday guy, but Saturday’s my birthday,” he said. “I just couldn’t believe how this went.”

Pataky said he is particularly worried about renewing his ID. He said that although he has lived in the country for his entire life, it will be difficult for him to get a new ID because he lost important documents, such as his birth certificate, in the fire.

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“I’m going to have to walk home illegal,” he said. “It’s going to be a hell of a hassle. I’m going to have to jump through hoops that nobody has to jump through.”

Pataky said he is not sure whether he will continue rebuild the house.

“I’ve been asked that question for the past three years,” he said. “Let me get over the shock this time first.”

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