Flurry of midvalley fires a ‘rare coincidence’ | AspenTimes.com

Flurry of midvalley fires a ‘rare coincidence’

BASALT – Basalt firefighters say a flurry of house fires so far in 2011 is simply one of the inexplicable oddities of life.

There have been four house fires in the midvalley during a 10-day stretch this month. The Basalt fire department tackled one house fire in conjunction with the Carbondale fire department on Monday, Jan. 3, then Basalt responded to a second call later that evening. There was another house fire on Jan. 5, and the latest calamity occurred Jan. 12.

“Yeah, it’s weird,” said Basalt Fire Chief Scott Thompson. “I just look at it as a rare coincidence.”

The flurry of activity followed a “slow” year. The department responded to a total of 18 fires of all types in 2010 – dumpster fires, vehicle fires, wildfires and one minor structure fire. Thompson said that was significantly lower than the average number of annual fire calls.

In contrast, 2011 is starting out as a particularly active year. It’s rare to have four house fires in one year, let alone in one month, said Thompson, who has been the chief of the Basalt fire department for 12 years.

Following is a recap of the fires this month:

• Monday, Jan. 3, at about 5 p.m. – Basalt and Carbondale fire departments responded to a house fire at 17525 Highway 82. Homeowner Steve Davis was unable to escape and died. Another occupant made it out safely. The fire was contained to a bedroom of the single-family house.

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation assisted the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office in the investigation, but the agencies haven’t released a report yet on the cause. One theory that investigators explored is that there was a problem with an electric blanket.

• Monday, Jan. 3, at about 6:40 p.m. – Basalt firefighters were called to 36 Davidson Lane in Little Elk Creek subdivision. The homeowner came home to find extensive heat and smoke in a bedroom of the house. The fire was contained to the bedroom, but smoke and heat affected an entire floor of the house. Damage was estimated between $50,000 and $75,000. No one was injured.

Thompson said “misuse of a candle” was the cause. A candle had been placed on a nightstand made of particle board, and other combustible materials were on and near the stand, he said.

• Wednesday, Jan. 5, at about 5:48 p.m. – Basalt firefighters were called to 253 Elk Range Drive in Missouri Heights by a passer-by who spotted a fire in a friend’s house. The living room, dining room and kitchen were extensively damaged. Other areas of the house and contents suffered heat and smoke damage. The damage was estimated at $100,000.

Peter Scott, the homeowner, had started a fire in a woodstove and left a door open while he went on a short walk in the neighborhood with his dogs. An ember somehow escaped and started combustible materials, Thompson said. No one was home at the time.

• Wednesday, Jan. 12, at about 8:20 p.m. – Basalt firefighters were called to 510 Lake Court in the Willits subdivision, where flames had engulfed a single-family home. The house was a complete loss with the damage estimated at $800,000. One occupant escaped unharmed. The home is owned by Harold “Chip” Unglert. The cause of the fire was ruled arson by the Basalt Police Department and Colorado Bureau of Investigation. No suspect had been named as of Sunday.


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