A routine smoke alarm call in Mt. Crested Butte quickly became a serious situation Tuesday night, January 8 after fire fighters arrived on scene to discover flames escaping from a bedroom window of an empty Villas condo. Although the fire was extinguished without injury or massive destruction, it gave area residents a scare.
The possibly devastating fire was avoided due in part to a preventative alarm system and the efforts of the Crested Butte Fire Protection District volunteers who responded to the single unit fire within minutes of the call, according to Crested Butte fire chief Ric Ems.
At 9:20 p.m. on Tuesday evening, Gunnison 911 dispatch received a report that a smoke alarm was triggered in the master bedroom at 137 Snowmass, one of the Villas condominiums. Dispatch received the report through a remote security service that monitors the building’s burglar and smoke alarms.
More than 20 Crested Butte Fire Protection District firefighters arrived on the scene shortly thereafter, but were unable to enter the house, which was unoccupied and locked. According to Ems, the residents of the condo were in Crested Butte having dinner at a local restaurant.
As crews entered the home using a key from the lock-box, the windows on the south and east sides of the building began bursting from the heat. Firefighters reported that smoke was bellowing from the windows. Ems says the origin of the fire was on the third level of the three-story condo.
At approximately 9:25 p.m., after less than a minute on scene, Ems called for backup crews and put the Gunnison Fire District on standby for additional support. At 9:30 p.m. firefighters located the nearest fire hydrant, but it was covered in snow and had to be dug out. Ems says the department also experienced problems with getting the fire trucks up Snowmass Road as it had not been properly plowed.
“This is a big reminder to keep your roads and driveways plowed and clear,” Ems says. “If we can’t get there, we can’t be of any help.”
Crews also tried to access the backside of the building for more coverage, but the driveway was not plowed and was filled with heavy equipment.
Still firefighters were able to bring the blaze under control by 10 p.m.
Ems says the investigation is ongoing and the cause of the fire is unknown at this time. The investigation is expected to continue through the weekend and a report will be generated next week. Extensive damage to the condo was contained to the third floor except for water and smoke damage to the rest of the condo and some exterior damage.
“What saved the house was the monitoring system – it saved their half of the duplex and also the other side,” Ems says.
The condo’s owners are a partnership called Texas Stars from Fort Worth, TX. The residents are staying in local accommodations for the remainder of their vacation.
Police were also kept busy controlling traffic along Gothic Road, and at least one traffic incident occurred during the fire.
“I am really proud of all the volunteers and police support – everyone did a great job,” Ems says.