Silverthorne house fire investigation determines cause of death for Warren Alloway
Summit Daily News
Authorities are still searching for the cause of a Silverthorne house fire that killed a man last week.
On Wednesday, investigators with Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue released their preliminary findings for the Jan. 2 house fire that claimed the life of Warren Alloway, a Summit County resident of nearly 60 years and a former mayor of Silverthorne.
The fire started shortly before 1 p.m. in a bedroom in the northeast corner of the small, single-level home at 914 Blue River Parkway. From there, flames and smoke spread rapidly through the house until firefighters evacuated Alloway from a room on the south end of the home around 1:15 p.m. He was transported to St. Anthony Summit Medical Center, in Frisco, where he died about an hour later.
The Summit County Coroner’s Office yesterday announced that the 81-year-old Alloway died of smoke inhalation. He did not suffer any significant burns or other injuries, and the office is still waiting for the results of a toxicology screen to determine if any drugs or other substances factored in the death.
Based on the preliminary results, Steve Lipsher, the Lake Dillon Fire public information officer, said the department and investigators don’t suspect outside involvement.
“It does not look as though there was any foul play,” Lipsher said. “We have no reason to believe this was a malicious event.”
Investigators still haven’t determined what caused the fire or how long it burned before neighbors reported flames shooting from windows on the backside of the building. In less than an hour after five engines from three local fire departments arrived, the fire had spread through the entire home, leaving the structure substantially scarred by smoke and flames. Wooden building materials and large indoor furniture may have contributed to the rapid spread, Lake Dillon Fire chief Dave Parmley said.
The investigation team, led by Lake Dillon Fire capt. Kim McDonald, is now focused on pinning down the source of the fire. Ignition factors like a natural gas buildup or an open, unattended flame can take weeks or months to determine, Lipsher said.
“Unfortunately, we might not ever pull all the puzzle pieces together on this one,” Lipsher said. “We’re certainly trying, and our investigators have been doing all we can to connect with the family and keep them up to date.”
Over the past decade, Summit County’s only major property fires have been confined to Montezuma, a small, secluded town east of Keystone. Like Alloway’s property in Silverthorne, the buildings often stood apart from neighbors on plots of open land.
The most recent was in January 2013, when an A-frame known as the “Tiltin’ Hilton” was completely destroyed. One resident escaped without injury.
In 2010, a turn-of-the-century home burned to the ground after the municipal hydrant system malfunctioned. A young family of three escaped from the fire with no injuries before fire crews arrived. Crews rescued one dog that suffered minor smoke inhalation before dousing the flames with hand-drawn water.
The 2010 and 2013 Montezuma fires were accidents, and both structures were at least 50 years old when they burned. The Tiltin’ Hilton was built several decades before (no one in the town remembers the exact date), and the family home was built in 1890 using insulation materials like hay bales.
Parmley said the Silverthorne fire, like those in Montezuma, might have spread rapidly due to the advanced age of the home’s building materials and the large size of the furniture inside it. The single-level home was built in the 1970s, he estimated, and was primarily wood.
“We are constantly battling with furnishing and the amount of things people now put in their homes,” Parmley said from the scene of the Silverthorne blaze.
The last fatal property fire also was in Montezuma. In May 2008, firefighters uncovered the remains of an adult male after a four-bedroom family home was destroyed in another accidental blaze. At the time, Brandon Williams, with Lake Dillon Fire, said it was the first recorded fatality from a property fire in Summit County history.
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Grace Wesseling is an animal lover, a cheerleader of seven years and another soon-to-be graduate of Bridges High School, class of 2021.