A crew of ten from CB, a crew of seven from Gunnison and 200,000 gallons of water
by Mark Reaman
No one was hurt in a major electrical fire that burned an unoccupied nine-unit condominium complex in Mt. Crested Butte on Sunday and Monday, but the building suffered extensive fire and water damage.
The call came into authorities just after midnight on Sunday, April 26 when someone living in the nearby Redstone condo complex smelled smoke. Officers dispatched to the area observed heavy smoke coming from the second and top floors of Crested Mountain North condos, building L. Firefighters first arrived on the scene about 12:20 a.m.
The L building is one of three in the complex and located east of the main Emmons Loop Road heading to the ski area. The fire did not affect the other two buildings.
According to a statement from the Mt. Crested Butte police department, a Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arson investigator responded to the scene Sunday. “The cause of the fire was deemed to be the result of electrical issues,” the statement reads. “Staining of the common areas was under way at the complex but was not related to the cause of the fire. It was further established that arson or foul play was not a contributing factor.”
Fire crews from both Crested Butte and Gunnison battled the blaze overnight. The glow from the flames could at times be seen from south of Round Mountain. Crested Butte firefighters also had to come back to the scene Monday morning to deal with hot spots that had flared back up.
On the original call, ten Crested Butte firefighters, along with seven Gunnison firefighters, pumped approximately 200,000 gallons of water onto the building. The Gunnison crew was released from the major structural fire about 6:30 Sunday morning.
“Having Gunnison as part of a mutual aid agreement on something that big is essential,” explained Crested Butte fire protection chief Ric Ems. “They are a great crew and they brought up an engine designed to help fight such structural fires.”
Ems was on the scene until 9:30 p.m. Sunday. “It was a long day,” he admitted.
He said the Mt. Crested Butte police watched the building overnight Sunday into Monday and there was no sign of fire. But the property manager noticed smoke coming from the building about 8:30 Monday morning so Ems and a few other firefighters returned to the scene. They went inside and knocked down the obvious hot spots, but when flames again flared up they called in more reinforcements and were on the scene until about 11:30 a.m. Monday dousing the building.
“Rekindling is not unusual on fires this big,” explained Ems. “Little spot fires can be in there and then when the sun gets hot or the wind picks up, they can flare up. We hope we got them all and we are in the process of cleaning up our equipment to be back in full service again.”
Ems said while he couldn’t comment on the cause, it was obvious that a fire had been smoldering in the building for a long time. The condo building, built in 1978, is not equipped with a sprinkler system or monitored smoke alarms that alert the fire department.
“The officers of the district are extremely proud of our volunteers that showed up and dealt with that fire,” Ems said. “They did a great job and are essential to the communities that we serve.”