updated 1/10/2006 11:56:49 PM ET 2006-01-11T04:56:49

Was it really a mouse that burned down Luciano Mares’ house? Or was it just the wind?

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Mares’ story of a flaming mouse that scampered from a burning pile of leaves into his rural home Saturday drew international media attention. On Monday, the 81-year-old told an Albuquerque television station that strong wind spread burning leaves, leveling his home of more than two decades.

On Tuesday, Mares and his nephew stood by his original version that a mouse was the culprit.

“That dang mouse crawled in there,” Mares said in a telephone interview from a motel in Fort Sumner, where he is staying with his nephew. “I have an awful hate for those critters.”

In the interview, Mares recounted three times the series of events Saturday: A 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, according to Mares, he 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,” Mares said.

Is that plausible? Fort Sumner Fire Chief Juan Chavez said Tuesday he thinks so.

“There’s no reason for him to lie about what he told us,” Chaves said. “I don’t doubt it at all.”

Fire crews arrived within minutes of the blaze and questioned Mares. “I think he knew right then what happened. It’s the story he told us, it’s the story he told everyone else,” Chavez said.

Richard Mares, 37, who is helping his uncle recover from the fire and figure out what the future holds, said his uncle has told him the same story many times.

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