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Family looks forward after fire destroys farm home outside Carbondale

The irony is not lost on Mollie Shipman.

The day before a national holiday that emphasizes giving thanks and extending gratitude for what you have, her 100-year-old home burned to the ground. 

The smell of burning mattresses still hangs in the air walking up a hill to where the house stood, and the charred remains were still smoking two days after the fire.

She and her husband, Jake, run Dooley Creek Farm off Highway 133 in the Crystal River Valley. The farm occupies over 100 acres of land, and they produce organic beef, chicken, pork, turkey, and eggs. Regenerative farming is a core tenant to Dooley Creek Farm.

They offer a meat CSA — a type of direct-to-consumer subscription for agriculture products that is becoming more and more popular with small farms, as well as product pickup on the farm. They also sometimes set up a tent with the Carbondale Farmers Market. 

Around 10 a.m. on Wednesday morning, Shipman had turned her oven to the self-cleaner mode after Jake made sausage. She said she wiped out as much grease as she could and started the cleaning cycle. The oven door locked, and she moved on with her day.

“It was kind of making the stink that those ovens make when you run those cycles. And so, I had the doors open,” she said. “It seemed normal to me.”

A customer came by to pick up her meat order around noon. And, since it was chilly outside, Shipman asked her to come into her home to fill out some paperwork.

“And, we kind of heard this popping noise. And, we looked over, and there’s black smoke coming up from behind my stove. So, I was like, ‘OK, that’s not normal.’ So, I ran over and unplugged everything.” 

Shipman then sent her customer outside. 

“I’m not sure the exact sequence; it’s all such a blur. But, I ran, grabbed the phone, grabbed my 2 year old, just whisked him out and handed him to (the customer). I got on the phone and tried to call my husband to ask how to turn off the gas. I ran back to the propane tank. And, I couldn’t turn the handle to turn it off.”

The propane tank outside of the house supplied the gas stove in the house. And, when Shipman couldn’t get it turned off, she focused on putting out the fire. 

“I kind of had this momentary decision to make, like, ‘Am I going to fight this fire or am I going to try to get stuff?’ And, I thought ‘Well, I can put it out. I can save the house,’” she said.

She said she emptied a full fire extinguisher on the flames, but the fire just sprung back up. And, when she tried to get a water hose to reach the house, black smoke filled her home, and she could not safely go back inside. 

“Thinking back now, I wouldn’t have tried to fight,” she said. “I would have just tried to salvage a few things like my violin and photo albums. That kind of stuff.”

Shipman called her mother to tell her to call for help, then directed her customer to call 911 while she moved as much as she could away from the house. She got the cars out into the field by the house, but everything else went up in flames or melted. 

Carbondale & Rural Fire District responded to the call at 12:15 p.m. According to a press release, Roaring Fork Fire Rescue, Holy Cross Energy, and the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office also responded to the fire.

Deputy Chief Bill Gavette was part of the team who went out to Dooley Creek Farm to fight the fire.

Five fire engines, two water tenders, one ladder truck, and a brush truck responded to the fire, but only a handful made it to the structure.

“We had three engines there and some water tenders, and only a couple were able to get across the bridge,” Gavette said. 

The farm is on the opposite side of the Crystal River from Highway 133. The bridge struggled to support two engines and the tender (A truck that transports water), so the fire department contacted CDOT to assist in bolstering the bridge, according to Gavette.

Still, they described the fire as pretty straightforward. It took just under five hours to get fully under control, which he said is a normal time frame for a structure that size. The house was gone, but they prevented the flames from spreading to the surrounding property. A powerline by the house went down and ignited some grass, but the firefighters were able to easily control that. 

Next week, Gavette said, the Shipman’s insurance company will visit the property to determine an official cause of the fire. Carbondale & Rural Fire District will likely assist in that process.

The house

The 1,100-square-foot house was part of an original homestead for James Dooley, who built the house on the 160-acre homestead generations ago. The land got split up, and Shipman’s grandparents bought the house and property in 1949, according to Mollie. She grew up in her parent’s house on the property and remembers visiting her grandparents just up the road in their house. She and Jake bought it and took over the farm in 2016. 

So, when she made the decision to try to save the house instead of saving belongings, strong feelings bubbled up.

“I remember as I was running out to the propane tank and running out to get the hose, I was saying, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I’m sorry.’ There was nobody there. But, I was saying, I’m sorry. Because I knew how many people it would affect.”

Shipman said she knows the fire was not her fault. But, she could not help but feel guilty.

“And then, I felt really bad for my dad because this was his parents’ place. You know, my grandparents died here. And, he has a lot of memories from his aunts and uncles doing work on the place, and they planted that tree (by the house),” she said. 

Shipman said she regrets the loss of her violin, her book collection, her grandmother’s teacups, and a quilt that was a gift from their wedding. And, they are holding out hope that a fire safe with a hard drive full of family photos and videos survived the flames. But, it’s all just stuff. No one, human or animal, was harmed in the fire. And, for that, Shipman is grateful.

Chickens at Dooley Creek Farm. Shade covering on some of the coops have visible cinder burns from the fire. (Josie Taris/Aspen Times)

What’s next

Shipman said the most immediate need on the farm side of things is restoring water and power to the chicken coops and pig pens. Jake is working on digging trenches to help Holy Cross Energy get electricity to the coops. It powers contraptions to keep the animals’ water from freezing overnight and keeps commercial freezers running.

They are also focused on replacing the tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment they lost. Freezers, processing equipment, meat scales, and small things, like vacuum seal machines, are among the equipment lost in the fire. Thousands of egg cartons, electric netting and solar chargers, tents, and banners for farmers markets went up in flames or melted.

“Pigs are going to the butcher in two weeks, and then they’ll be ready two weeks after that. So, within a month, we need a place to store the meat,” she said. “I just have buckets of eggs sitting in the living room just piling up that I can’t really do anything with.”

Her laptop is also unsalvageable, and, with it years of business documents. She said some of it is backed up, but a lot of information is gone.

Shipman, her husband, and their three sons, aged 8, 6, and 2, will stay with her parents on the property until they are able to rebuild the house. And, they do intend to rebuild.

“We want to keep producing. We believe in what we’re doing. And, the community obviously wants it. They want the good food (and) the food resiliency of someone local growing,” she said. “We have the place to do it. We have the knowledge and skills to do it. We just need to get the equipment.”

A hunk of metal that was once a scooter is still sitting in front of what is left of the house. The Shipman’s son Cole has been eyeing it as something cool worth saving, and Jake said he will hang it in the workshop on the farm.

A friend of the Shipman’s set up a GoFundMe to help offset costs. Donate here.

Early morning fire at Ami’s Acres Tuesday sends one to hospital, displaces residents

A structure fire at Ami’s Acres RV Park ignited early Tuesday morning leaving one person in hospital, according to a news release from the Glenwood Springs Fire Department.

“The quick response of firefighters kept this fire to the building of origin and stopped the flames from spreading to additional property,” Incident Commander Ryan Wyckoff said.

Glenwood Springs Fire Department received the call at 2:54 a.m. Upon arrival, firefighters found a 40-foot, fifth-wheel trailer fully engulfed in flames and spreading to four cars parked next to the trailer, the news release states. 

Occupants of the trailer were evacuated with one person being sent to the hospital, and a dog was taken to the Valley Emergency Pet Care in Basalt. 

Firefighters were able to evacuate occupants from that and neighboring trailers before extinguishing the fire and keeping it from spreading, according to the release.

The two adjacent trailers sustained extensive heat and smoke damage, displacing the occupants. 

Carbondale & Rural Fire Protection District, Colorado River Fire Rescue and Glenwood Springs Fire Department used a joint effort requiring three fire engines, one water tender, an ambulance and a command vehicle with 13 firefighters, according to the release. 

“Glenwood Springs Fire Department is very appreciative of the quick response from their mutual aid partners,” the release states. 

The cause of the fire remains under investigation by the Garfield County Fire Investigation Team and the Glenwood Springs Fire Department. 

Midvalley fire crews knock down brush fire in Missouri Heights Monday afternoon

A brush fire that broke out along Garfield County Road 100 northeast of Carbondale Monday afternoon was quickly contained before it could spread into a thick stand of trees nearby, Carbondale and Rural Fire Protection District officials said.

Firefighters were paged around 3 p.m. Monday to the wildfire near 4482 County Road 100 and requested mutual aid from the neighboring Roaring Fork Fire District, which provided two brush trucks, a tender and crews.

The fire was burning with heavy flames in pinon and juniper as firefighting crews worked to stop the spread of the fire toward the west, according to a news release.

No structures were threatened, no evacuations were necessary, and there were no injuries, officials said.

The fire is believed to have started next to the county road, either by chains from a trailer or a stray cigarette butt, the release states. The fire is believed to be human-caused.

“This fire had huge potential to spread and was moving rapidly into a tight stand of pinon and juniper,” Carbondale Fire Chief Rob Goodwin said in the release. “The crews from Carbondale and Roaring Fork Fire did an outstanding job in keeping this fire from becoming much worse.”

The fire was contained to 1-2 acres and burned part of a private property fence.

During the fire incident, Carbondale & Rural Fire Protection District also responded to a two-car crash at the intersection of County Road 100 and Colorado Highway 82.

County Road 100 was closed from Highway 82 to County Road 102 for several hours due to heavy smoke conditions, officials said.

Fire destroys rural home south of Silt Thursday

A Thursday afternoon fire south of Silt destroyed a home and touched off a brush fire, according to Colorado River Fire Rescue officials.

Firefighters were called out at 2:17 p.m. Thursday to 840 Garfield County Road 326 for a reported structure fire.

“While en route to the fire, the smoke could be seen from Rifle,” a CRFR news release posted to Facebook states. “Upon arrival, the firefighters found a heavy timber log home and a brush-covered backyard, fully engulfed with flames.”

Smoke from the Thursday afternoon house fire south of Silt was visible from mile around.
Colorado River Fire Rescue/Courtesy photo

Firefighters took a defensive approach to the house fire while other crews focused on the brush fire caused by the gusty winds, the release states.

There were no reported injuries and CRFR did not have an immediate loss estimate. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Responding to the fire from CRFR were two engines, six water tenders, two chief’s vehicles and an ambulance.

Mutual aid came from Glenwood Springs Fire Department and Grand Valley Fire Protection District. Garfield County Sheriff’s Office – Colorado, and Holy Cross Energy.

Tamarack Fire reaches Highway 88 mapping shows

Fire mapping indicates the Tamarack Fire has reached Highway 88. (Provided)

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Woodfords and Alpine Village were evacuated Saturday as the Tamarack Fire has grown to 21,000 acres due to gusty winds, critically dry fuels and low relative humidity and is 0% contained, officials Saturday afternoon.

But satellite detection indicates the blaze has a few hot spots north of Highway 88 on Sunday morning in Alpine County as the fire blasted in a northerly direction on Saturday, west of Markleeville towards the Highway 89 corridor.

A few spots are located in Woodfords Canyon, and as the Fire Information for Resource Management web site showed, the fire may have doubled in size from the previous estimate over the last 12 hours.

Mandatory evacuations are also in place for Grover Hot Springs, Shay Creek, MarkleeVillage, Markleeville, Carson River Resort and Poor Boy Road area, Wolf Creek Campground, Silver Creek Campground, Sierra Pines, Upper and Lower Manzanita, Crystal Springs, Alpine Village, Diamond Valley Road and Hung-a-lel-ti. “The Mesa” was under a voluntary evacuation as of Saturday afternoon.

Evacuees have been directed to the Douglas County Community and Senior Center in Gardnerville, while fire officials have set up at Douglas High School in Minden.

Both locations were forced out of their locations in Alpine County as the fire overtook them.

Highway 89 is closed at the intersection of Highway 4 and 89. Highway 4 is currently open west of the Highway 89 and Highway 4 junction. Please slow down and drive with caution in the area as fire crews and equipment will continue to arrive throughout the evening. Refer to https://roads.dot.ca.gov/ for closure specifics.

Three structures have been lost and no injuries as of Saturday afternoon.

There are 120 people working the fire.

There are no evacuation orders for the Lake Valley Fire District, but officials recommend signing for red alerts at https://ready.edso.org/.

Firefighters will be dealing with less than ideal conditions. The National Weather Service in Reno issued a red flag warning for the Lake Tahoe Basin that is in effect from midnight Sunday through 8 p.m. on Monday.