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Fire robs family of home

Ryan Graff
Post Independent Photo/Kelley Cox The 113-year-old Durrett family home at 914 Blake Ave. was destroyed by fire the night before Christmas Eve. With temperatures well below freezing, the home and surrounding trees quickly became laden with icicles as the Glenwood Springs Fire Dept. sprayed the house with water Friday.
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Ashton Durrett tried hard to have a normal Christmas Eve.He was in the kitchen of The Italian Underground restaurant Friday, as he is every Christmas Eve, preparing for the restaurant’s annual Christmas party. He arranged dozens of cherry tomatoes on two cookie sheets, cleaned and rinsed shrimp, and put racks of ribs and a ham in the oven. But on this Christmas Eve Durrett wasn’t alone in the kitchen with his employees as usual.Instead, a group of Durrett’s friends gathered in the kitchen. Some were Durrett’s colleagues from his eight years as a Glenwood Springs city councilman and mayor, some were family, some were friends, but everyone was there to offer help and support to Durrett, whose house caught fire the night before. “I don’t have anything else to do so I’m going to make sure this party goes off well,” Durrett said.

A tragic fire Late Thursday night Durrett’s wife, Stacie, left the restaurant where she was working with Durrett and her son, Raine. She ran an errand to the grocery store and was pulling up to their home at Blake Avenue and Ninth Street when she saw the glow of a fire reflected in a window of the house’s detached garage. Stacie ran to a neighbor’s house and told them to call 911. Then she opened a door to the house to make sure the family’s dog and three cats were safe. The smoke was thick, so Stacie crawled on the floor calling for the cats and Liberty, the dog.Stacie found two cats and was looking for the other animals when a neighbor pulled her out of the burning house by her feet, Durrett said. A dog and a cat died in the fire. The Glenwood Springs Fire Department received a 911 call at 10:06 p.m. and were at the Durrett’s by 10:10 p.m. with two engines and eight firefighters, said department captain Darryl Queen.”There was a whole lot of fire coming out of the back of the house and the side of the house,” Queen said. About 25 percent of the house was in flames, he said.

The department protected adjacent structures and went into the house with a 2.5 inch hose to make an initial attack on the fire. The first attack failed, and so did a second attempt organized after aid from the Carbondale and Rural Fire Department had arrived. The initial attacks were the best chance, he said. But the fire was already too big and the attacks “didn’t do a bit of good.” By 4 a.m. Friday the fire was extinguished, but Blake Avenue between Ninth and Tenth streets remained closed until 1 p.m. as firefighters continued to clean up, Queen said. A cause for the fire has not been determined, he said. A difficult blaze

Fighting the fire was difficult because of sub-zero temperatures Thursday night, the threat of freezing hoses and hydrants, the close proximity of the neighboring houses and the Durrett home’s age – at least 113 years old. The old Victorian house is sort of Glenwood Springs landmark, having been originally built by architect Theodore von Rosenberg, who designed the Hot Springs Lodge and Pool’s sandstone lodge. Durrett told friends gathered at the Italian Underground Friday, that December has been a hard month for the Durrett family, which has been in Glenwood Springs for generations. “The irony is 50 years ago our grandparents had the Hotel Glenwood and they lost it about this time of year,” he said. And 15 years ago Durrett’s daughter, Kathryn, ended up in the hospital in December. This year, the family lost everything to the fire. “What I’m wearing is literally what I have,” he said. “The stuff in the house isn’t important. My family is OK. It’s just the little things, the calendar of your life over the last 30 years,” he said. The family lost every photo, from the great events of their lives to the “non-events” like Durrett and his son making pasta in the kitchen of the house. For a family that has been here as long as the Durretts help isn’t hard to find, especially during the holidays.

“Like I say,” he said, “I’m really humbled by the outpouring of friends.””You develop all these ties over the years and it’s times like these that you really become a family,” he said. Durrett and his family certainly didn’t have a typical Christmas Eve, but they didn’t let a fire stop them either. “I’ve got my employee party today and I’m going to make sure they have a good time,” said Durrett, and he slid a ham into the oven.Contact Ryan Graff: 945-8515, ext. 520rgraff@postindependent.com


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