Cause of New Castle home fire not yet determined |

Cause of New Castle home fire not yet determined

Carrie Click

NEW CASTLE – Burning Mountains Fire Chief David Yowell said the cause of the fire on Tuesday that burned the Main Elk Creek home of Shirley and Warren Wailes has not been determined.

After a full day of investigation late Wednesday, Yowell anticipated having a final report on the fire by Thursday afternoon.

“We’re still in the process of investigating the cause and origin of the fire,” Yowell said. “It does not appear the fire was owner-caused.”

Yowell said the fire was reported by a UPS driver at approximately 11:30 a.m. who was attempting to deliver a package to the Wailes’ home.

Yowell said the house, at 3132 County Road 243, is “completely gutted,” but that some personal items were salvaged.

On Tuesday afternoon, Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario told the Glenwood Springs Post Independent the fire started in the Wailes’ coal stove which he says was “burning full bore.”

Vallario admitted Wednesday that he was “at fault” for commenting on the fire.

“I was out of line,” he said. “The bottom line is Tuesday was my first day on the job, and I screwed things up. I know better.”

Vallario explained he got his information from a deputy, who also told him two of the Wailes’ three dogs were removed from the home by firefighters. Yowell said Wednesday the two dogs got out of the house on their own.

“It was like a game of telephone,” Vallario said. “Facts got distorted. I should have referred to the fire chief.”

Vallario said he would call the Wailes, who are staying with family members, and apologize to them about the inaccurate report.

Judy Schaffer, vice president and manager at Alpine Bank in New Castle, said no sooner had fire engines raced through town and headed north towards the Wailes’ house than people started calling the bank wanting to donate money to a relief fund for the fire victims.

“People immediately started calling,” Schaffer said. “Everyone in town heard those fire engines, and word got out by midday whose home it was. Everyone here knows the family. That’s when the heartbreak starts – when you discover you know the family.”

Schaffer said as calls came in, she began working on setting up an account for the Waileses. As of Wednesday, Alpine Banks from Rifle to Glenwood Springs and up the Roaring Fork Valley are all equipped to accept contributions.

Schaffer said she has seen time and again how New Castle’s close-knit community rallies for one another.

“Shirley and Warren are so well known and they’ve been here for such a long time,” Schaffer said. “The response was immediate. That’s this town. It’s wonderful.”

Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext 518

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