Fire chars home; woman taken to hospital |

Fire chars home; woman taken to hospital

Chad Abraham
Billy Tomb walks outside his burned house Wednesday. Aspen Times photo/Mark Fox.

A fire that started in a garage yesterday afternoon sent one resident to the hospital and left her husband without a home on Christmas. The Aspen-area home of longtime residents Billy and Sherry Tomb was severely damaged by smoke and water. Sherry was taken to Aspen Valley Hospital with what Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis called superficial burns. Billy Tomb is a corrections officer at the county jail.Sherry Tomb and Veronica Smith of Carbondale were upstairs around 3:30 when they heard an explosion that shook the house. Moments after escaping from the home with her friend, a shuddering Smith said she didn’t know what had caused the fire.”We were up in her room watching TV shortly after the electricity [came back on] and I thought Billy came home because I heard a really big bang,” she said tearfully. “I went running downstairs and I saw the smoke coming out of the garage and it started to fill the kitchen and the living room. That’s when I yelled at Sherry that she needed to come down and I called 911.”I got her down and she went over and opened the door to the garage. I told her not to, I said, ‘Just leave the doors alone, let’s just go.’ She opened the door and that’s when the fire just went. It just started going. It blew her backward – her face is singed, her hair is singed. I’m sure she has some degree of burns because her face was very red.”

Smith said she helped Tomb and the Tombs’ dog escape the burning house. Minutes later firefighters brought out a black cat and tried to resuscitate it with oxygen. It was unclear whether they succeeded.About 25 firefighters responding in two trucks found flames and heavy, gray smoke pouring out of the garage and front door at 40 Twin Ridge Drive. The neighborhood is just south of the hospital.The power had been out in the area “for probably about an hour,” said neighbor Archie Maclean, who had been leaving for work when he stepped outside and saw the smoke. “I know that we had a brownout in town, but I don’t know why.”Smith wondered if the power outage played a role. “Maybe a power surge after the electricity came on, I don’t know,” she said.Billy Tomb has worked in the county jail for 18 years, and several deputies and police officers milled around offering what assistance they could as the temperature dropped into the teens. Braudis said he was on his way to the hospital to visit a friend when the fire started.

“We heard the explosion and my secretary called me and said it was Billy’s house,” he said.A visibly distraught Billy Tomb talked with firefighters as others pulled out smoky debris from the ruined garage and took down some of the outer paneling to help ventilate the two-story, tan-and-green home. Eric Angus, who lives a few houses down, said he came out of his home and saw the billowing smoke.”We came around and the garage was just up in flames,” he said. “My grandma called 911 but they had already been called. It was pretty scary.”About 45 minutes after the fire was reported, Aspen deputy fire chief Orrin Moon said firefighters were still contending with unstable elements in the home.

“We still have a very dangerous situation going on,” he said.Moon later said the power in the area had been out from about 1 to 3 p.m.”It was out on Castle Creek and it seemed to be a Holy Cross leg that was out,” he said. “The residents were upstairs in a bedroom when the power came back on. They reset the clock and shortly after that they heard a boom that shook the house.”Moon said the fire spread from the garage into an entrance area. “The rest of [the home] is all smoke damaged.”He declined to speculate on what caused the blaze, saying the investigation had not yet begun.Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is


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