Whippoorwill Chapter destroyed in fire
The Whippoorwill Chapter House was completely destroyed by fire Sunday. Chapter officials suspect the blaze was deliberately set.
Reynard Kieyoani, leader of Piñon Chapter’s Community Emergency Response Team, was one of the first on the scene.
He said the fire was reported about 6 a.m., and another fire, apparently started a little later, was burning in the neighboring administration building when he arrived. Firefighters were able to extinguish that fire.
Chapter President-elect Aaron Yazzie said he was visiting his mother in Many Farms and they were having breakfast when he was informed of the fire and raced to Whippoorwill to find the building in flames.
Yazzie was elected in last month’s special election and hasn’t even been sworn in yet, he said.
Ironically, said Chapter Secretary-Treasurer Phillip Tom, the chapter had been discussing installing outdoor surveillance cameras and fire hydrants at the last chapter meeting.
The cause of the fire is under investigation but Yazzie and Kieyoani said there’s little doubt in their minds it was arson, especially considering the two mysterious blazes that consumed the abandoned Hoosh Doodiito Senior Living Facility and the senior center last August.
“When you have a pattern like this — and considering there were two separate fires in two separate buildings a short time apart this time — I think we can safely say someone did this,” Yazzie said. “Someone made a very bad choice and wasn’t thinking about his or her community.”
Yazzie said the chapter was packed with personal protective equipment and donated food that was being distributed to chapter residents in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Kieyoani added that the boxes of hand sanitizer acted as an accelerant.
Firefighters were still extinguishing the blaze as of late morning Sunday, hoping to at least save important chapter records.
Yazzie said the chapter will rebuild as soon as possible.
“We’re not going to let this get us down,” he said. “I’ve got a great team and, hopefully with the help of our government in Window Rock, we’re going to build something better for our community.”
Tom said the chapter had set aside $450,000 to renovate the aging chapter house, which can now be put toward a new building along with the insurance settlement for the old building.
Yazzie said one of his focuses when he assumes the chapter presidency will be working more closely with the police.
“I’d like to know where the investigation is in the two previous incidents and why no one was arrested,” he said. “There’s a lot of crime in our area and we need to learn how we can work more effectively with the police and protect our community.”