Contributed by: Einar Jensen on 12/6/2007
High winds gusting at hurricane strength strafed the upper elevations of Clear Creek County, Colorado, all day December 3, 2007. One of those gusts is blamed for snapping a lodgepole pine and forcing it onto an electrical line that also snapped.
The sparking line fell onto a two-story wood frame home in the 8600 Block of Fall River Road in the community of Alice about 3:20 p.m. and quickly ignited the house. Nobody was home at the time, but a neighbor spotted the flames and called 911.
Clear Creek Fire Authority Station 7, which serves the high elevation neighborhoods of Alice and St. Mary's, went in service within minutes with a single volunteer firefighter. He drove the 1,800-gallon attack tender to the fire, less than a mile away, to find the house already fully engulfed. He established Alice Command, pulled an 1 ¾" attack line, donned his SCBA and approached only close enough to direct water onto the propane tank that already showed signs of scorching.
Additional CCFA volunteer firefighters from Station 2 in Idaho Springs (Ladder 2, Engine 2, Tanker 2 and Tanker 21) and Station 4 (Engine 4 and Engine 41) in Georgetown also responded, but their response time was much greater as they climbed the two-lane Fall River Road 3,000 vertical feet in nearly 9 miles from the Interstate 70 corridor.
Clear Creek EMS also responded with an ALS ambulance, as protocol requires, as did the Clear Creek Sheriff's Office Marmot Wildfire Crew because the wind threatened to push the blaze into the surrounding forest. CCSO deputies also controlled traffic in the area.
Central City Volunteer Fire Department responded with an engine and brush truck on a mutual aid request.
Driven by the high winds, the fire quickly engulfed the home and spread to nearby trees. Firefighters focused their efforts on the propane tank, a nearby home on the D-side of the house and a few torching lodgepoles on the B- and C-sides.
After only an hour, the chimney was the lone recognizable part of the house. Firefighters remained on scene to drown hot spots until 6 p.m. CCFA Station 7 personnel and Clear Creek deputies shared patrol duties overnight to verify the wind hadn't rekindled the fire and to check whether the chimney had collapsed.
Neither the emergency responders nor the homeowner (nor his dogs) was hurt in the fire.
CCFA Chief Kelly Babeon is confident the electrical line ignited the fire after ruling out other potential causes.