A Fort Sumner firefighter looks on as Luciano Mares attempts to extinguish a fire Saturday at his house on Grove Street using a garden hose. (Staff photo: Andrew Chavez)
By Andy Jackson: CNJ staff writer
Luciano Mares was just trying to protect his cats. He didn’t want them to eat the mouse he caught in a glue trap, so he tossed the mouse into a pile of weeds he was burning outside his home on Saturday afternoon.
The world knows the rest of the story by now. The mouse caught fire, escaped its trap, then ran back at the house and set it ablaze, destroying its contents.
“He threw the mouse in the fire because he has cats, and he didn’t want the cats to get a hold of it if it had eaten poison,” said Mares’ nephew, Richard A. Mares, 37, an Albuquerque biologist.
The Mares family visited the burned home Tuesday, and Luciano Mares, 81, seemed more concerned with feeding his five cats still occupying the structure than he did about all that was lost from inside, Richard Mares said.
Richard Mares said Saturday was not the first time his uncle has been adversely affected by a fire he’s set in his yard.
“He is eccentric. … We worried about him. About one month ago he fell in a ditch where he was burning a fire,” Richard Mares said.
Luciano Mares’ mouse story — which he told to the Clovis News Journal on Saturday — sparked international media interest last weekend. It drew more attention Monday, when Mares changed his story and told an Albuquerque television station that strong wind — not the mouse, which lay dead in the burning pile — was the culprit that leveled his home.
But on Tuesday, Mares and his nephew stood by his original version, in which he claimed the mouse scampered into his house and set it afire.
“That dang mouse crawled in there,” Mares, who talks quickly and in slightly broken English, said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. “I have an awful hate for those critters.”
In the interview, Mares recounted three times the series of events Saturday. A smelly little mouse got caught in one of the glue traps he’d set in and around his home. He was pleased — mice were a nuisance, they’d been bothering him for some time, leaving droppings everywhere. And they were hard to get rid of. This mouse, too, was resilient — trapped but still moving. The glue was sticky; he couldn’t pull the mouse off.
So, Mares went outside and threw the whole deal — mouse and trap — onto the burning leaves. The mouse, now ablaze, scrambled to safety, then headed back for the house and disappeared inside a window. About 90 seconds later, the house was on fire.
How did the mouse run away, still trapped in the glue?
“The fire melted the glue and he got away,” Luciano Mares said.
Richard Mares said his uncle has told him the same story many times.
“He said the mouse wasn’t dead and it took off,” the younger Mares said. He added: “We’re really devastated. We lost all photos of our family, all his papers. He’s a veteran of World War II. He’s been through a lot.”
Could his uncle have been rattled by the events and mistaken about the mouse? “He may be a little confused,” Mares conceded.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
How to help
The Fort Sumner man who said he lost his house to a mouse fire on Saturday had no insurance, family and friends said this week. Supporters have set up a home fire repair fund in care of Citizen’s Bank of Fort Sumner. The mailing address is P.O. Box 490, Fort Sumner, N.M., 88119.