A fire early Tuesday engulfed two-thirds of the historic Desert Sands Motel along old Route 66 in Albuquerque and left 57 long-term residents there homeless, according to varying media accounts.
The Albuquerque Journal reported 22 firefighting units were called to the scene at 1:45 a.m. At least two people were hospitalized with smoke inhalation.
KOB-TV talked to residents who said they heard an explosion at the motel before the fire broke out.
The Red Cross is helping those displaced by the fire.
Firefighters were investigating the blaze’s cause.
The Desert Sands Motel, at 5000 Central Ave. (aka Route 66), essentially had been converted into long-term housing for locals and was not a desirable place for overnight travelers. It received poor reviews from TripAdvisor and Yelp users, so its best days clearly were behind it.
The Desert Sands Motel, particularly Room 109, reputedly was haunted.
According to varying online accounts, the Desert Sands was built in 1957, during the golden age of Route 66. But it had declined into a ramshackle place — yet another victim of an oversupply of old motels along Central Avenue.
The future for this motel looks bad. Whether the building was insured is one thing. Regardless, the Desert Sands Motel clearly had become a problem property along Central, and the city likely will bulldoze what’s left if the owner doesn’t rebuild.
UPDATE 6/1/2016: A 37-year-old woman has been charged with arson, according to the Journal.
Surveillance footage from Desert Sands shows a woman walking away from the blaze early in the morning on May 24, the day of the fire, according to the criminal complaint filed against Maestas in Metropolitan Court.
Days later, the motel’s owners noticed Maestas matched the description of the woman seen in the surveillance footage and called authorities.
When authorities interviewed her, Maestas told them that someone used a lighter to start the fire and that it started in one of the rooms – information only known to fire investigators, according to the complaint.
(Screen capture image of the Desert Sands Motel fire via KOB-TV video; image of the Desert Sands Motel sign in 2013 by Thomas Hawk via Flickr; vintage postcard image of the Desert Sands Motel via 66Postcards.com)