Raging fire destroys Glenwood home
A house was destroyed by fire Monday afternoon on the south edge of Glenwood Springs, causing school officials to scramble to get students home from nearby Sopris Elementary.
Glenwood Fire Chief Gary Tillotson said it was unclear how many people were in the home when the fire started, but as many as four families might have been living there. The American Red Cross was sheltering seven people overnight, he said.
No one in the house and no firefighters were injured in the blaze, which was reported around 2:15 p.m. By 4:15, crews had the fire mostly out and were looking for hot spots, but the house was a complete loss, and the roof had collapsed.
The cause was unknown. State investigators were expected Tuesday and local officials were securing the site overnight to preserve evidence.
Glenwood Springs Electric Department and Black Hills Energy, formerly SourceGas, both moved in quickly to cut off service to the home, Tillotson said.
The chief said it was lucky that firefighters were able to keep the blaze from spreading to other homes or open land.
For about two hours, Midland Avenue was blocked off at Park West Drive, and drivers could not travel up Three Mile or Four Mile roads. Four Mile reopened by 4:25 p.m., and all roadblocks were removed by about 5:45 p.m.
Roaring Fork School District officials first considered evacuating nearby Sopris Elementary, but instead decided to arrange pickup points at the regular school dismissal time, 3:30 p.m.
Many parents opted to walk from the road closures to pick their children up early when they heard about the fire.
Because of the Midland closure, students were escorted north through Glenwood Park to Park West Drive for bus and parent pickups. Families living up Four Mile Road were told to pick up students at the old rodeo grounds at the Glenwood Springs airport.
Four Mile bus routes had to be diverted back to Highway 82, through Carbondale, and over Dry Park Road to drop students off in that area, said Diana Sirko, superintendent of Roaring Fork School District.
Sirko said officials initially were concerned about smoke that was settling into the neighborhood where school is located, but the wind was blowing enough to dissipate it. Teachers suggested students pull their shirts up over their nose if the smoke was bothering them while they walked to the bus.
Firefighters dealt with some water issues.
Emergency responders first tapped a hydrant on Midland Avenue, but the home was situated at the top of a long, steep driveway. The fire crews found they didn’t have quite enough hose. But when they added another 100 feet of hose, the steep incline began to take its toll on pressure, said Tillotson. For every 1 foot of incline, water loses roughly about 1/2 pound of pressure per square inch, said the chief. He estimated the house sat about 200 feet above Midland Avenue.
Firefighters brought in a relay pumper for added pressure and set up a port-a-tank near the base of the driveway to clear the road of hose and allow one lane of traffic.
Tillotson said it was too early to say what might have caused the fire, and the intensity of the blaze would make it difficult to find good evidence in the aftermath.
He added that he did not know of a 911 call on the blaze, which was initially reported by a fire official driving nearby.
Dwight Juhl, who lives on Four Mile above the house that burned, said his brother advised him that something was burning near his home. Because of the road closures, he walked up to check on his dogs, which were fine, he said.
“If the wind would have been blowing to the south, I would have been real nervous,” he said.
Cameron Steen, a 10-year-old student at Sopris Elementary, said he and other students first saw the smoke and flames when they went outside for recess.
Jill Patrick, who lives on Mount Sopris Drive, said she saw the blaze while driving down Four Mile Road. “Never in my life have I seen a fire that big. The house was consumed by flames.”
Glenwood Springs Fire Department, Carbondale and Rural Fire Protection District, Colorado River Fire Rescue, Garfield County Emergency Management, Garfield County Sheriff’s Office and Glenwood Springs Police Department all responded to the blaze.
This story includes reports from Will Grandbois, John Stroud and Randy Essex.