Fire guts commercial building
An explosive, fast-moving fire gutted the metal building holding two local businesses located at Red Canyon Road south of Glenwood Springs Monday morning.The six people in the building at the time the fire started all exited the building safely, although one person was taken to Valley View Hospital in Glenwood for observation.Firefighters had the blaze under control at about 9:30 a.m. Their task was complicated by the fact there is no fire hydrant in the complex of commercial buildings in the mouth of Red Canyon, just across Highway 82 from Holy Cross Energy. Water was hauled to the site from a hydrant at Buffalo Valley Restaurant.At about 7 a.m. “there was an explosion that blew out doors and windows,” said Bill Inverso, who owns the building which was home to Canyon Cleaners and his business, Architectural Woodworking & Cabinetry. Inverso was working in his office when the fire started.Inverso said he went to an apartment in the back of the building and roused the tenant who was asleep in the unit. The tenant was eventually taken to Valley View, suffering from smoke inhalation, Inverso said.Employees of Canyon Cleaners who were working at the time said that flammable dry-cleaning fluid spilled out onto the floor and ignited when the boiler turned on, starting the fire.Karen Deppe, who owns Canyon Cleaners with her husband, Herb, said she and three employees inside at the time realized they couldn’t put the fire out, so they ran from the building.Mary Tencza, who was outside loading a truck with clean clothes, said she looked in the building, “saw the cleaning fluid overflow from the machine, then the boiler lit and it blew.”Norma Casillas was working at a pressing machine in the front of the shop when she heard someone call for her and another employee to come to the back of the dry-cleaning shop. When they went into a hallway, “the fire came at us, racing along the floor. We were very afraid, the fire was moving very fast.”Everyone in the dry-cleaning shop then ran from the building and began moving their cars away from the building.The only vehicle that didn’t get moved, the Deppes’ truck and camper parked on the north side of the building, was completely destroyed by the fire.Both businesses and the building were also complete losses, from what the business owners could tell while watching the smoldering blaze from the safety of a nearby driveway.Inverso, who is a well known mountain biker and a driving force behind The Glenwood Springs Mountain Bike Races, spent an emotional morning watching the firefighters battle the blaze. Inverso’s home, which is located directly behind the building, was not damaged. When he was asked if it looked like the commercial building and everything in it was a total loss, all he could say was, “yeah.”Karen Deppe said everything was gone including all the equipment in Canyon Cleaners, all the records in the business office and customers’ clothes waiting to be cleaned or delivered.A look in the front window of the cleaners revealed a scene of charred destruction created by a jumble of pressing machines and other equipment blackened by smoke and flames.The fire sent spires of black toxic-smelling smoke into the sky for the first hour or so. The smoke, which reeked of chemicals and reminded some sniffers of burnt tires, reached Glenwood Springs and spread along the I-70 corridor.”That smoke was nasty,” said Jason Stark, who spent the morning moving equipment and material out of the adjoining Stark Roofing and Sheetmetal building.Stark said the fire produced numerous “booms and pops” while it ripped through the building, as if small cans of paint or other flammable liquids were exploding. He noted that as soon as firefighters would attack the flames though one window, flames would erupt from another window.As the fire burned through the roof of the metal building, a ladder truck doused the blaze from above.Once the flames were subdued, Darryl Queen, of the Glenwood Fire Department, said firefighters wouldn’t be going back into the building itself until they knew the building was structurally sound and that they had eliminated any other hazards.About 25 firefighters from Glenwood and Carbondale responded the to blaze, with each department also contributing three firefighting trucks.Firefighters donned oxygen masks and dashed into the burning structure to see if any people were in the building, then faced the difficulty of fighting a blazing hot fire without a fire hydrant nearby.”Personally, I’ve been worried about something like this for a long time,” Queen said of the lack of an immediate water supply in the enclave of businesses at the base of the Red Mountain Road.Queen noted that the lack of a fire hydrant in the area forced the crews to set up “a water shuttle.” Water trucks filled up at the hydrant in front of Buffalo Valley and brought their load to the scene, where it was dumped in portable, canvas reservoirs, from which it was pumped to the hose trucks battling the fire.That shuttle system served the crews well, although it caused the closure of one northbound lane of Highway 82 and intermittent stops across all four lanes for several hours as the trucks scuttled between the hydrant and the fire.
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