Wrestling coach Joel Partridge nails boards into place at the burned-out youth wrestling gym Monday after￾noon.
Russell Huffman | El Defensor Chieftain photos

The cause of a fire on Fisher Ave. that devasted the Socorro High School wrestling teams’ room and the adjacent Rising Stars Dance Studio on Easter Sunday afternoon has been determined to be arson.

According to Socorro Fire Chief Lawrence Baca, the State Fire Marshal’s office sent two investigators from Albuquerque on Monday. The pair confirmed Baca’s and Socorro police Lt. Peter Gonzales’ suspicions of arson after they found evidence at the scene that led to the call for further investigation.

“I was traveling home with my family from my mother-in-law’s when I saw the smoke,” Baca said.

Baca arrived at the location at the same time as one of the city’s fire trucks and assumed command of the scene. Both he and Gonzales noticed the front door of the dance studio had been busted in.

“There was that, and later once we had the scene under control and were looking around, there were some other things that pointed to the fire possibly being arson-related,” Baca said. “That’s when we determined we needed to call the state.”

The scene was secured once the fire was extinguished, and law enforcement officers guarded the site until fire investigators arrived around 9 a.m. Monday.

The destroyed wrestling room contained wrestling mats and equipment.

“They were able to determine pretty quickly that the cause of the fire was arson. At this time, we do not have any suspects,” Baca said.

While the blaze took only about an hour to bring under control, the damage was devasting, with an estimated $50,000 in wrestling mats and equipment lost.

“People have been reaching out all day to me to see how they can help,” Joel Partridge said.

As if confirming his statement, Socorro’s head wrestling coach had to turn down his phone as another dozen or so texts arrived at a machinegun rate.

Socorro established its wrestling room in 2017 in the same building but moved to the eastern end suite as the program grew.

“We’ve been in that particular suite for the past three years, and it has become our home,” Partridge said.

Counting all levels from youth through high school, 157 wrestlers call the Socorro wrestling room their second home, and the program produced two state champions and multiple state qualifications this year. Eighth-grader Isiah Estrada just returned from wrestling out of state at the Adidas Nationals, where he earned All-American status.

Jenelle Partridge operates the Rising Star Dance Studio, and 106 dancers take part in her award-winning program,

“We are already back to work dancing,” Jenelle said. “Thanks to the good people of Socorro and the great folks at Tripps Storage who reached out and offered us a place. We will hold a recital on June 3 at 11 a.m. in the Macy Center.”

Joel Partridge also fielded calls from Tripps, Socorro High School, the City of Socorro and more.

Monday afternoon at 4:30, Partridge was hard at work with about a half dozen others boarding up the wrestling room. As time passed, more and more people began showing up to lend a hand.

El Defensor Chieftain readers can help by donating to the gofundme page set up by Andrew Fowner. The page can be found by searching for “Socorro Wrestling Lost Wrestling Room to Fire.”

Partridge was unsure what parts of his lease may or may not have been insured because of the program’s expansion. Building owner Michael Ward reported the building itself was insured.

“We are both going to rebuild, and we will come back better and stronger than ever,” Partridge said.

While there is yet to be a definite timeline for moving back into the building, Partridge said he hoped to have his wrestling program back in its room by the beginning of Sept.

Anyone interested in helping the Socorro wrestling team can contact Partridge via his cell phone at 575-650-5666.

Correction: The building is owned by Michael Ward not Matt Ward. The dance recital is June 3 not June 2.